What stood as a popular entertainment destination in its early days is being restored into affordable housing units for those who need it most.
Located at 250 Parkdale Avenue North, George and Mary’s Tavern was a popular banquet hall, with entertainment on the lower level and affordable apartments above. Over the years, however, the building had been neglected.
The conditions of the building have deteriorated, becoming infested with mould, bed bugs, peeling paint and leaking roofs. Despite these conditions, some saw it as their only resort for affordable living spaces amidst the city’s affordable housing crisis.
Indwell, a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities and supports people seeking wellness and belonging, purchased the worn down building last fall with plans to build 60 single housing units.
The project plans to have the structure of the three-storey building to remain intact, while a portion will be demolished and rebuilt accordingly. The main level will see a commercial space that will include a convenience store and pharmacy, while the apartments will be restored and converted into approximately 24-square metre apartment units.
“There’s something really special about coming into a community and finding a building that’s already part of that community and already has a history there, and revitalizing it,” said Naomi Biesheuvel, administration coordinator at Indwell. “So a place like George and Mary’s… to be able to step in and start caring is an exciting way to participate in the community instead of coming in with a brand new plan. There is something incredibly exciting in taking this shell of a place and helping to transform it into something that will be full of life and hopefully a lot of happiness too.”
“There is something incredibly exciting in taking this shell of a place and helping to transform it into something that will be full of life and hopefully a lot of happiness too.”
Administration coordinator at Indwell
With affordable housing projects completed across eastern Hamilton and several more in tow, including the revitalization of George and Mary’s located in the McQuesten neighbourhood, Indwell is working diligently to provide hope and homes for those who need it most.
According to a 2012 profile on the area from Hamilton’s Social Planning and Research Council, the McQuesten neighbourhood is indicated to have much higher poverty rates than average for the city as a whole. Approximately 43 per cent of McQuesten neighbourhood households are living in unaffordable rental units by tenure type.
“Affordable housing is indeed in a crisis mode. We have way too many people waiting to obtain subsidized housing with too few available places,” said Patricia Reid, a long-time McQuesten resident and neighbourhood volunteer. “Indwell’s project will make a very small dent into the overall crisis, but at least it is a dent. Their properties are geared toward some of the most vulnerable peoples that are usually shunted aside by our society.”
According to the Hamilton Community Foundation, the cost of buying a home in Hamilton has spiked over 88.3 per cent over the past 10 years. A major factor in this surge is a drop in vacancy rates, which from 2013 to 2015, fell to 1.8 per cent from 3.4 per cent, contributing to costly rents across the city. In 2012, a report from the McMaster-Community Poverty Initiative discovered a 21-year gap in life expectancy between residents of the poorest and those of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Hamilton.
“There are lots of good things happening in Hamilton in terms of renewal,” said Terry Cooke, chief executive officer of the Hamilton Community Foundation, a major funder of this project. “But if we fail to build mixed income communities and affordable housing opportunities, ultimately we will follow… a path of social breakdown, social isolation, much more costlier outcomes in terms of incarceration or educational outcomes, poor health outcomes, which is the clearest measure in Hamilton and in Canada of what happens when you leave people behind, so I think it’s critical [to invest in jobs and affordable housing].”
Indwell’s revitalization of George and Mary’s Tavern is set to be completed in 2019 and is currently in the early stages of demolition.