LETHBRIDGE: An old neighbourhood could become new help for those in need of affordable housing. City council gave the green light Monday to a construction project in the London Road area. The Westwood family, which has been working on the proposal for more than two years, called it another step forward.
"Because I'm a resident of the area and my parents still have a home adjacent to this project, we wanted to see that area get revitalized and we wanted to see it done in a way that was in character of that neighbourhood," said Dan Westwood, a local architect who is sharing the lead on the development with his brother David.
The pair plans to revamp the southeast, southwest and northeast corners at the 13th Street/6th Avenue South intersection. They hope to retain most of the existing houses, and will add several affordable "cottages." Lethbridge Housing has added the Westwood project to its five-year plan to end homelessness in the city, a designation the Westwood brothers speak of proudly.
"People are generally in favour of low-income housing, but they'd just rather not see it in their neighbourhood because of the impact," said Dan. "So we were trying to come up with a new concept that would have very little impact on the existing neighbourhood."
The Westwoods' design for the new cottages would match the existing historic-style architecture in the neighbourhood. The cottages would be built in the backyards of existing homes, arranged around a courtyard for a sense of community. They'll also keep mature trees and the existing sidewalk to maintain the streetscape.
To come up with details like these, the Westwoods carried on a long conversation with the community. They held more than 10 meetings with area residents to talk about the project, listened to their concerns, then incorporated their ideas into the plan. Now a majority of area residents are backing the development, including the London Road Neighbourhood Association.
"Once they saw our plans of how we are really trying to design something that's in tune with the neighbourhood and not just come in and put something up to maximize square footage, residents were really positive," said David.
The brothers say council's support should go a long way toward the project's success. They need to next secure a provincial affordable housing grant of about $3 million to move forward.