Video

New plan to breathe life into London's historic WWII buildings

A non-profit restoration project is set to breathe new life into four historic war buildings that sat empty in the city’s south end for decades.

The buildings were used to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress

Dean Sheppard is the executive director of ReForest London - a non-profit helping restore historic buildings in the city. (Hala Ghonaim)

A non-profit project is set to restore four historic war buildings that sat empty in the city's south end for decades. 

The buildings south of Parkwood Hospital made up a village for World War II veterans to recuperate. The proposal will see them refurbished into the city's first environmental and sustainability centre.

The estimated $6 million project is a partnership between Thames Talbot Land Trust and ReForest London.

A non-profit restoration project is set to breathe new life into four historic war buildings that sat empty in the city’s south end for decades. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) currently owns the 14-acre site that will be transformed into a place for Londoners to connect with nature and the city's history, said Dean Sheppard, executive director of ReForest London.

"We want to build a centre that … offers programming around environmental learning and sustainable issues so we can help Londoners engage with those issues and change behaviours and we'll build a more sustainable city," he said.

"There will be lots of opportunities to keep reminding people of the site and work with local veterans and military veterans to figure out how the story will be told."

Collaborative approach

Dean Sheppard is the executive director of ReForest London. The estimated $6 million project is a partnership between Thames Talbot Land Trust and ReForest London. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

After two years of discussion, the two non-profits announced this week that the project was still in its early stages.

Suzanne McDonald, executive director of Thames Talbot Land Trust said the centre will have a collaborative feel, with possible partnerships with other community organizations such as the board of education, and ones focused on mental health and children's growth.

"We're going to be able to build on our relationship in terms of bringing other people in and that's a good thing," she said.

"We're all working collaboratively for the sector. Being able to share resources and our knowledge is something that's been very helpful for all of us."

The plan will include the community by holding public consultations but not before more work is done with city hall.

There are four remaining buildings of a recuperative village in the city's south end near Parkwood institute. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

At the end of March, city councillors will discuss an upcoming zoning bylaw amendment application related to the project, said Sheppard.

It will include a request to have an access point directly to the private site. Right now, people have to use a road that's on the hospital's property.