Developer and Muskoka cottager John Amardeil is looking to rally support for a seven building apartment complex he plans to build in Bracebridge.
Amardeil wants to help the local housing crisis by constructing seven buildings with seven units each off Woodward Street near the fire station on Taylor Road. Amardeil recently received road allowance for the project and will be applying to rezone the lot to the highest density, which allows for 60 units per hectare. At just under a hectare, the lot for Amardeil’s development would allow for 52 units, but he plans to create 49 apartments to keep the buildings identical, which makes for a more efficient and less expensive build. While the process includes many steps, Amardeil hopes to start construction next year and ideally have tenants moving into units by the end of the year. As a seasonal resident with a cottage in Port Carling, he’s well aware of the housing shortage in the region.
“I spend a lot of time in Muskoka. I’ve got a cottage up there, my kids grew up there, my wife has been going up there since she was born,” he said. “I just thought how cool to be able to do something business-wise for myself but also something that provides a benefit to Bracebridge.”
The ground level units are set to be 600 square feet with accessible bathrooms geared toward seniors and others with mobility issues. The units on the second and third floors will be split-level units with open concept kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms on the lower level and two bedrooms on the upper level for a total of 900 square feet. Amardeil said that under current market conditions, the rent for the units would be about $1,100 to $1,500.
While it’s near impossible to create truly affordable housing from a developer’s standpoint, he said, the units would be small to make them financially attainable for locals. He also plans to make 21 units accessible and all of the units net zero ready, meaning the apartments would be made so energy efficient that a renewable energy system could offset most or all of the energy consumption.
The project would use the green initiative of low impact development as well, meaning stormwater and runoff drain into the ground through natural features on-site rather than being allowed to flow into sewers and local waterways. Draining the water on-site also allows them to leave many of the trees on the lot since they don’t need to alter the grade of the land, which is often the reason large areas of trees are removed during development.
“The most important thing for us is we’re making a case to our planner for high density,” he said. “In exchange for getting the high density, we’re committing to building these attainable apartments that are highly energy efficient, 42 per cent of which will be accessible and all of which will be low impact.”
If council approved the project for medium density rather than high, Amardeil said the buildings would stay largely the same, but the units inside would be much bigger. That could mean the units become townhouses for sale rather than apartments for rent, but while that would work out financially just as well or possibly even better for him, Amardeil doesn’t want to do that. His goal is to “rock the boat a bit” by creating a project that’s positive and impactful in the local rental scene.
Amardeil hosted an open house on Feb. 21 and answered questions about the development with planning consultant Wayne Simpson. Many of the guests were residents from neighbouring properties, who will be asked by the Town of Bracebridge to comment on the development during council deliberations. While Amardeil is glad that they have their say, neighbours are often in opposition to development simply due to their proximity, he said, so he hopes that residents in support of the project will have their opinions heard as well.
Some locals have already shown interest in the apartments with a few even signing up to be on the list to rent, according to Amardeil, so he’s planning to create a letter of support where residents can include their names to show their approval of the project. Beyond that, he hopes that locals affected by the housing crisis, such as those in need of rentals and employers that struggle to find staff due to housing issues, will come out and voice their support.
“People don’t really get to speak up about the things that matter to them, and here’s another example of something that matters to them that’s probably otherwise going to be dealt with by politicians and by municipal employees,” he said. “They can make a difference and I’m trying to give them a voice.”
Click the images below to see the apartment layouts.