Res­i­den­tial care home told its in the way of the LRT

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN mvan­don­gen@thes­pec.com 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

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.

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

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.

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