Construction starting on Embassy Commons affordable housing building

Indwell, a Hamilton-based Christian organization, is turning the site of the old Embassy Hotel at 744 Dundas St. into Embassy Commons.

The building is slated to welcome tenants in 2022

Graham Cubitt, Indwell's director of projects and development, throws some dirt as part of a symbolic groundbreaking event Wednesday. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

A charity that has created a "wonderful" downtown home for one London woman has broken ground on its second affordable housing project in the city. 

Indwell, a Hamilton-based Christian organization, is turning the site of the old Embassy Hotel at 744 Dundas St. into Embassy Commons. The 72-unit apartment building will be geared towards people struggling with addiction, mental health or finding a stable place to live. 

It will follow a supportive housing model, which, according to Graham Cubitt, Indwell's director of projects and development, begins with being a high quality and professional landlord.

"We know our tenants' life experience, so we try to bring the supports around them that will help them achieve and succeed in independent living," he explained. 

That could include access to a nurse on staff, who can monitor tenants' medications, if needed. 

"We know that a lot of tenants have experienced an addiction in the past. So how do we help them retain the recovery that they're working on?" 

Others tenants, said Cubitt, will simply be looking for a safe and affordable place to live. 

Rent for a one bedroom unit will be $570.

Indwell is building a three-storey, 72-unit apartment building at 744 Dundas St., the former home of the Embassy Hotel. (Submitted by Indwell)

Very welcoming

Indwell has another building in London. Woodfield Gate, at 365 Dundas Street, began accepting tenants last year and Linda De Bruyn moved in July 28, 2019. 

"It's a very welcoming home," she explained. "You're welcomed from the minute you come into the doors to the minute you exit the doors." 

In the past year, De Bruyn said she has been able to graduate from an administrative clerk program at Pathways Skill Development and is now looking for a full time or part time job. Affordable housing units, like the ones Indwell is creating, should be part of London's approach to homelessness, she said. 

"We need more homes. We need to get these people off the streets." 

Retail on the ground floor

Construction on Embassy Commons is set to begin in August. 

When it's done, it'll have 67 one-bedroom units, five two-bedroom units, and on the ground floor facing Dundas Street, a pair of retail spaces and a restaurant. 

Cubitt wasn't able to say who would be occupying the restaurant space, except that an "exciting" partnership with a "community-minded" business was in the works. A PharmaSave and the Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Co-op will move into the retail spaces. 

Luis Patricio, board chair of London Cycle Link, a non-profit that runs a bike co-op, said in a statement the move is about more than getting a storefront in a nice location. 

"It's the beginning of a long-term relationship with Indwell, an organization that has a deep understanding of bicycles as a powerful tool for building a better city," he said. 

Edward Odumodo, owner of the pharmacy, said he's "incredibly pleased" with the partnership, too. "Next to safe, stable housing, health care is absolutely essential for individuals to thrive and survive."

As an ode to the site's cultural history in London, a watercolour streetscape by Jamelie Hassan called Embassy at Nite will be turned into a three-storey mural facing Dundas Street. 

The City of London has already committed to investing $4 million in Embassy Commons, and Cubitt said significant investments from the Ontario and federal governments are also lined up.

Embassy Commons is expected to start welcoming tenants in 2022.