3D model of Metrolinx-owned sites bring potential affordable housing plans to life

City officials say Indwell's initiative is creative, but think the plans are premature as hopes of pro-LRT recommendations from the Hamilton Transportation Task Force remain.

Officials say Indwell's initiative is creative, but premature, as hopes for LRT persist

Indwell, a local charity that develops affordable housing, made a scaled, 3D model of potential builds for the plots along the now-nixed LRT route. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Mini foam buildings offer a vision of what affordable housing developers can do with the 60 Metrolinx-owned sites around Hamilton — but some city officials say thinking about that is premature as they hope for an LRT revival.

Indwell, a local charity that develops affordable housing, has made a scaled, 3D model of potential builds for the plots along the now-nixed light rail transit (LRT) route.

"This is a concept of what is physically possible," Jeffrey Neven, Indwell's executive director, says.

So far, they've covered eight sites, mostly making modest mid-rises, such as spots along King Street East near Sherman Avenue South, with six and four storey foam buildings.

The calculations reveal the potential for 900 units, which would cost about $260 million to develop.

Some of the mock buildings, such as the lot on Victoria Ave North and King Street East would be a 12 storey building with a mix of one, two and three bedroom units — a total of 160 units. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
This collection of mid-rises near King Street East near Sherman Avenue South are six and four storey foam buildings. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

While the charity has made this with low-income residents in mind, the goal is to advance the conversation around the lots.

"We didn't specify who would develop these, they could go to the public or private sector," Neven says.

"We're all residents of Hamilton, nobody wants these buildings to sit empty for another decade."

Development plans premature with potential for LRT revival

Keanin Loomis, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO of isn't giving up on the prospect of the LRT's construction, but tells CBC what happens to the lots is "far from over."

"When the properties do come back online after construction, the unused portions, we need to be creative in addressing housing issues."

Chad Collins, councillor of Ward 5 (Centennial) and president of CityHousing Hamilton also appreciates Indwell's efforts but says it's too early to talk about what's happening with the properties.

He points to the Hamilton Transportation Task Force, which will decide how to spend the $1 billion in capital funding from the province for transportation and transit projects.

"The province appointed a pro-LRT task force, it wouldn't shock me in the least if recommendation is to continue to pursue LRT," he tells CBC.

Dean Coomans from Redeemer University and John Schurrman from Wilfrid Laurier University, Indwell's student interns, spent the last month compiling data and putting together the models to plan for development on Metrolinx-owned lots. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

He thinks the prospect of evolving buildings from the 50s, 60s and 70s into modern, higher density properties is exciting, but doesn't think that will happen anytime soon, predicting the lots will remain "vacant and underutilized" for at least six to eight months.

"Even if they go to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), there will be requirements, possibly for the properties to be used, whether it's for lay-bys and or other property that might be required for dedicated bus lanes."

"There are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers ... we're at the mercy of Metrolinx and by extension, the province."

Fannie Sunshine, a Metrolinx media relations specialist, says the task force and the Metrolinx Corporate Realty team will decide what happens to the properties.

The task force is expected to have a preliminary list prepared by the end of February.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.