Community leaders, Council members and provincial Ministers came together in Lakeside yesterday to announce Kenora’s largest seniors housing build in over 30 years.

The Ontario government, City of Kenora, All Nations Health Partners and the Kenora District Services Board announced that the former Howard property at 8th Avenue South and 8th Street South will be transformed into a $27 million, 56-unit seniors housing facility.

The KDSB says the mixed-market facility will include 56 independent units for residents of all income levels, as well as dedicated health spaces to provide a range of specialized services and supports on-site. Shovels are expected to be in the ground by next month.

''The empty plot of land at 8th Avenue South and 8th Street South in Lakeside.

Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development, Greg Rickford, notes that plans for the Howard property have bounced around for a few years now – but the Minister kept the pressure on Ontario to bring more housing to the Kenora community.

“We’re providing bricks and mortar space for the kind of flexible and alternative levels of care that seniors require,” said Rickford. “And to a certain extent, prevent a move to a long-term care facility prematurely. This is groundbreaking.”

After making a trip to Kenora’s other 8th Street, Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, who served as a federal Minister alongside Rickford, joined the celebrations to announce a $4.5 million provincial investment into the project – noting it could serve as a new housing model across Ontario.

“We’re in this massive stage of rebuilding long-term care homes, but this project recognizes the fact that sometimes long-term care is the end of the journey – and not where people want to be,” said Calandra.

''Kenora - Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra. 

“This here, a mixed-market facility with health services for seniors," adds Calandra. "It’s something that we want to do in different parts of the province. Getting to do it here first in Kenora is really unique. This is a first-time investment in long-term care like this, anywhere in the province. I’m excited to see the results.”

Chair of the KDSB, Barry Baltessen, explains that local groups and Indigenous elders were vital to securing the project through their advocacy work, and a number of local seniors helped design the new building’s plans. He adds that the new housing model is a ‘game-changer’ for Kenora.

“All these kinds of projects take tons of people cooperating and working together. It’s a true community effort. This is the way that people want to live their lives. They want to age in place and not have to go into a long-term care facility until they have to. This is a very important project for Kenora.”

''Chair of the KDSB, Barry Baltessen

KDSB CAO Henry Wall adds that the city and various organizations have had plans to develop housing on the empty Lakeside property since the 1960s, but plans never came to fruition.

''CAO of the KDSB, Henry Wall

City Councillor Sharon Smith adds the city sold the former Howard property to the KDSB in 2020 for $264,000, which was 80 per cent of the land’s value at the time. The city also contributed $250,000 towards the project, to help push things forward.

“To my fellow council members, thanks for believing in this project and holding true all the way through,” said Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard. “There are a lot more things that will continue to happen, and you’ve laid the groundwork for future builds.”

''Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard

Former Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield also joined yesterday’s events. As he put it, he ‘had to see it to believe it’. Canfield explained he began his political career in 1991, and the Howard property project was one that he had fought for many times over his career.

''Former Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield 

The announcement is part of a $37 million investment in seniors housing across Ontario.