New apartments opening to help support staff at Gillis Lodge in rural P.E.I.

Developer Ajay Mathew Punnapadam has nearly completed a second six-unit apartment building across the street from Dr. John M. Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast, P.E.I., to help staff members find accommodation.

Two six-unit apartment buildings built across the street from the lodge

Two six-unit apartments have already been constructed in Belfast, P.E.I., with plans to build two more. (Submitted by Ajay Mathew Punnapadam)

Two new apartment buildings are helping health-care workers at Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast, P.E.I., find local accommodation — right across the street.

It all started when Stratford, P.E.I., resident Ajay Mathew Punnapadam, president of Confederation Construction and Interiors Inc., was looking for a new opportunity to develop an apartment building.

Punnapadam and his family immigrated to the Island from India in June 2019 and he had been planning on a six-unit apartment development in Stratford when the project fell through.

He heard of a housing shortage in the Belfast area from talking with a friend, especially for some of the people who work at the Gillis Lodge there.

Owner of Dr. John M. Gillis Memorial Lodge, Douglas MacKenzie, and Ajay Punnapadam standing in front of the new Gillis Place apartments. (Submited by Ajay Mathew Punnapadam)

The long-term care home can accommodate up to 128 residents with a specially designed dementia care unit.

"Health-care workers need to travel all the way from either Charlottetown or Stratford into Belfast because they wouldn't be able to get accommodation nearby," Punnapadam said.

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"So we said their problem is a development opportunity."

He said he spoke with the owners of the lodge who were receptive of the idea.

There are now two six-unit buildings constructed as part of Gillis Place Apartments, one of them already occupied and the other nearly complete.

Punnapadam, president of Confederation Construction and Interiors Inc., stands in front of one of the two new six-unit buildings constructed in Belfast, P.E.I. (Submitted by Ajay Mathew Punnapadam)

Punnapadam said he is hoping more projects will follow on the Island.

"The idea would be to make self-sustained mini-townships," Punnapadam said.

With schools, grocery, recreation centre and a post office, he said, Belfast has all the facilities for a small town.

"With the increasing land prices and the difficulty accessing land in Charlottetown and Stratford, this might be the best way to go forward," Punnapadam said.

He says there are approvals in place to build two more in the area.

Punnapadam says when the second six-unit apartment building is occupied he will start looking at building another one that has already been approved. (Submitted by Ajay Mathew Punnapadam)

The construction project was part of his immigration journey, but Punnapadam, with his wife and three kids, expects they'll be Islanders for years to come.

"They love every bit of it," he said. "They're saying they don't even want to go on a holiday anywhere else because every part of the Island is like a holiday for them."

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With files from Angela Walker