Residential care home told its in the way of the LRT
A subsidized residential care home is one of more than 86 properties in the way of light rail transit in Hamilton.
Brock Lodge co-owners Heather Emmons and Henry Choi said they were alerted by Metrolinx in a letter that the 949 King St. E. property may be needed for the $1-billion LRT line slated to run along Main and King streets from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle.
Emmons — a skeptical council-watcher — said she’s not yet convinced the project will go ahead. But if it does, she wants to know what it means for her facility and nine residents.
“We aren’t a retail business that can close up shop and move down the street,” she said. “Some of our residents have lived here a long time. It wouldn’t be easy for them to pick up and leave, either.”
Emmons said the facility, on King Street East and just east of Sherman Avenue, hosts “largely independent” low-income residents, some of whom are elderly or dealing with mental health issues.
“We cook for them, help them with their medication and appointments if they need it. It’s home,” she said. “It’s not the sort of situation you can solve by handing over the market value of the property.”
Metrolinx recently mailed another 43 letters alerting landowners most or all of their properties may be needed for LRT. A similar number of property owners received letters last year, meaning at least 86 large property purchases are needed for the project.
The Spectator has previously reported potentially affected businesses include a bowling alley, massage parlour, charitable donations store, car wash and auto sales lot.
Metrolinx is responsible for negotiating all land transactions for LRT. But community relations director Jamie Robinson stressed any purchase is still far down the road. “We may need that property, but we don’t need it tomorrow … In most cases, we’re still two years away.”
Regardless, Robinson said the transit agency won’t use a “cookie-cutter approach” to negotiate with businesses, landowners and tenants.
It’s not always a simple financial deal. For example, a Salvation Army building was demolished on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto, then rebuilt as part of the Crosstown LRT construction nearby.
Robinson said the agency will work closely with landowners and the city if it’s necessary to find new homes for “vulnerable tenants.”
“If you have people who have special needs, you can’t just hand them first and lastmonths’ rent and say good luck,” added Paul Johnson, the city’s LRT point person.
Johnson said council will hear more in March about possible “transition strategies” for residents affected by the project. That will come as part of a report on a “community benefits” framework for the LRT project.
Coun. Matthew Green asked via a motion this week for that framework to include a focus on affordable housing. Part of the goal (of the project) should be new opportunities for housing, but also to reduce the impact of displacement, he said.
Emmons said finding a new building zoned for an often NIMBY-challenged use would not be easy. She added it’s also “heartbreaking” to give up on the tens of thousands of dollars sunk in renovations to the aging, three-storey brick building. The partners just paid off the mortgage in January.
Heather Emmons, co-owner of Brock Lodge at 949 King St. E., with resident Aurica Postelnicu.
Brock Lodge, centre, is among many properties in the way of Hamilton’s planned light rail route. Metrolinx has mailed letters alerting landowners that their properties may be needed for LRT.