Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 and Sal-Dan Developments announced Friday the construction of a nine-storey, 107 unit veteran housing project and new Branch facilities to be constructed on the site of the existing Branch location at 96 Great Northern Rd.
The existing Branch 25 building will be demolished.
Branch 25 will be moving into a temporary home at the Marconi Cultural Event Centre while the new complex is built.
The cost of the new complex is estimated to be between $22 million to $25 million, depending on the cost of construction materials, said Helen Stewart, Branch 25 president.
The new facility will include, on its main floor, Branch offices, meeting rooms and lounge, artifacts (which are now, for the most part, being safely stored at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum), an enhanced hall and kitchen facilities.
The new building will allow Branch 25 to increase the number and types of services offered to veterans and their families.
The Veteran Housing complex will have eight floors with 107 units of one and two bedroom apartments, each with balconies, as well as a beacon in honour of veterans, similar to that at GFL Memorial Gardens, on its roof.
It will be fully accessible and have up to date conveniences, including limited underground parking.
There will be special resource rooms on each floor and expanded Veterans Services including medical, health care and wellness resources for the building’s residents and all veterans.
Branch 25’s housing plan is unique as far as Legions go.
“There’s no Legion (project) like this in Ontario,” Stewart said.
Financing for the project will come from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), some existing CMHC grant money and a group of investors, Stewart said.
“Branch 25 will own this property always. It’ll always be ours. We’ll get the CMHC funding and we’ll be good to go. It’ll take us about two years. From the time they put the shovel in the ground they figure 18 months to two years,” Stewart said.
“This (existing) building will be razed. What we now call the lounge will be the underground parking. The memorial for the Wawanosh Residential School will be enhanced and more into focus.”
Branch 25 has received approval for the multimillion dollar project from Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Command as well as confirmation from the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association “that there is a high probability of no unmarked burials in that area.”
The site is the location of the former Wawanosh Residential School for Girls.
The main driveway into the Legion from Great Northern Road will stay very much the same, the complex to have a new parking lot.
“We’ll be at The Marconi in the meantime (throughout the construction process). They’ve been extremely good with us, to let us be there for the 18 months to two years it’ll take to build the building,” Stewart said.
Once CMHC funding comes through the existing building will be demolished and the Legion will move to its temporary home at The Marconi sometime after Nov. 15, Stewart said.
“I’m confident. I’ve packed my bags. I’m pretty confident we’ll be moving. We all know it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
The Legion’s landmark cannon and naval gun facing Great Northern Road will be staying, Stewart said.
Construction of the new complex could begin over the winter, Stewart said.
“We’re looking at moving in (to the new complex) in spring of 2023. That would be ideal. If not, it’ll be summer of 2023.”
“Veterans and Legion members will be first (in line for the units),” Stewart said, though the units will be open to others.
“There are a lot of young veterans in town that hopefully will take advantage of it because in the building there will be a restaurant and a bar, obviously, but there’ll be all the veterans services that they require. They’ll be close to a lot of amenities (such as access to public transportation, shopping, a number of businesses and places of employment). That’s why we don’t want to move from here.”
Sault MP Terry Sheehan, Sault MPP Ross Romano, Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano, Sal-Dan Developments President Sam Biasucci and numerous Branch 25 officials were in attendance at the Legion for Friday’s announcement.