London International Academy expanding, building 16-floor dorm on Horton Street

The London International Academy (LIA), which teaches high school students from around the world, is expanding and building a dormitory that will change the Horton Street skyline. 

The new dorm is set to house 350 international students

The London International Academy houses students at its Ivey Hall building on Horton Street and in a rental building downtown. From left, Holly Zou, vice principal, Paul Debenham, principal, and Vanessa Goulding, marketing and recruitment manager. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

The London International Academy (LIA), which teaches high school students from around the world, is expanding and building a dormitory that will change the Horton Street skyline. 

The 16-storey building at 185 Horton Street will be able to house 350 students and is part of the school's ambitious expansion goal to have around 500 students in the next five years. 

"A lot of students are looking at Canada as their new home away from home," said Vanessa Goulding, the school's marketing and recruitment manager.

"Western University, Fanshawe College, those are some big names that a lot of international students already know, and this is a very student-friendly city. A lot of students like to start out in a smaller city before moving to Toronto or Vancouver to do their university." 

The London International Academy plans to build SoHo Tower at 185 Horton Street, expanding the current three-storey building into a 16-storey dormitory. (Supplied by LIA)

The $20-million dorm project just got approval from the city's planning committee. 

The new dormitory will be built behind the school's current three-storey, low-rise apartment building at 185 Horton St., near Richmond Street. A vacant two-storey industrial building located to the back of the land parcel will be demolished.  

Right now, 120 students stay at the the Horton Street location, known as Ivey Hall. . The expansion will allow for 200 more students to live at that site. 

The school also occupies a large building at Richmond and King streets, where classes are held. Students take high school classes from the Ontario curriculum and graduate with an Ontario diploma or an International Baccalaureate. They come from 15 different countries, though most are from mainland China. 

'We're here to stay'

"When we calculated the capacity, we were looking at the future of this school and the increase in requests for international education, especially in Canada," said Holly Zou, the school's vice-principal and executive director. 

The new building will include student common rooms, dorm rooms, kitchens and a gym, Zou said. 

At a public participation meeting, neighbours supported the expansion, though they had questions about parking and the foot traffic that can be accommodated on the parcel of land. 

Paul Debenham is the principal of the London International Academy, which is a boarding and day school that is building a new dormitory on Horton Street. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

School principal Paul Debenham said the expansion is an exciting part of the redevelopment of the neighbourhood. 

"We're here to stay, and we're investing in our school and in this part of London," he said. 

"Most of our students like London. It's relatively small, the Boys and Girls Club is across the street, the YMCA is just down the street, the Covent Garden Market is next to the school building. My feeling is that the students like living in this city. They have lots of amenities and facilities right at their doorstep."

City staff said the dorm fits with the London Plan's "inward and upward" development plan, and will fit in well with the redevelopment of SoHo (south of Horton). 

"The enlargement of the existing building improves, enhances and revitalizes the existing streetscape of Horton Street East that will promote a pedestrian oriented environment along (the street)," staff wrote in their report.