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Social Justice

This article originally appeared in The Coast on Jan 31, 2013:

Gottingen Terrace back from the dead: Affordable housing development for former Sobeys site.

Gottingen Terrace, the affordable housing development planned for the old Sobeys site on Gottingen Street across from the library, seemingly died last September. But now comes word that it has risen phoenix-like from the dead.

“It was off in September; we had failed,” says Grant Wanzel of the Creighton/Gerrish Development Association, the non-profit organization that owns the site. “We had failed to obtain interim financing.” Wanzel approached the province numerous times over the years with funding proposals and suggested loan mechanisms, to no avail. But “the minister’s announcement [of a new housing strategy last month] gave it new life,” he says.

Wanzel says the province is modeling Toronto’s Regent Park revitalization project, emphasizing mixed-income housing and high-intensity use. “They’re interested in mixed income, mixed tenure, mixed programming. And we believe in all of those.”

Gottingen Terrace was first envisioned in 2009 and had a couple dozen confirmed buyers who had to be reimbursed after the proposal collapsed in September. The original plans for 48 one to three-bedroom condo units starting at $124,500 are gone.

Wanzel now expects to build a larger project—potentially doubling the number of units—with a mix of affordable housing, market housing and office space for nonprofits. “We’re back in discussion with private developers and the province, to see what they can bring to the table, what subsidies are available,” he says.

Phase one is determining the current value of the property and establishing what exactly the zoning laws allow. “The appraiser and architect have different interpretations of the zoning,” Wanzel says. “We want to do everything as-of-right, following current zoning rules so we have no appeals, no hearings.”

Four years out from dreaming up the project, hitting the ground running would be a refreshing change for Wanzel. “We’re moving in the right direction now,” he says.