Future of LMHC townhouse damaged in explosion being discussed
More than four months after a massive explosion that damaged several units, discussions about the future of an entire south London public housing complex are underway.
The head of the London and Middlesex Housing Corporation (LMHC) is among those suggesting a dialogue needs to take place before the units are re-built.
On Aug. 15 an explosion that police say was caused by a drug lab destroyed one unit and left five others uninhabitable at a complex at 1217 Southdale Rd. E.
Since then those living near the demoralizing site have been wondering when something will be done.
Area resident Mike Brown says, "Bad enough we're already labelled, everybody already labels us as the ghetto, you know 'Don't go there,' 'Don't go near there.' And then this on top of that - it just kind of doesn't help especially with it still sitting like that."
The head of the LMHC can't argue with the residents' perceptions, but adds the delay is partially strategic.
Steve Matthew says "I think it would be too hasty to just step in and exactly re-build what's there, when we say there are different needs today."
So, the remnants of this townhouse row have sparked a positive conversation about a new development, and a new type of community in this area.
The first goal to get the buildings down and then, Matthew says it's time to make a plan.
"Do we do something new and interesting on this plot of land here that actually expands our capacity to house more people that are in need?"
That could mean re-building an accessible facility on the site or going big, by re-developing a large portion of the complex that is almost 50 years old and making it more inviting.
That is what Brown - who says image and neighbourhood pride matter - wants to hear.
"Even more curb appeal, you look at the London housing in Pond Mills, you can't tell that's London housing, because they've got nicer curb appeal than what we do."
But curb appeal takes money.
Insurance will help re-build the row of homes destroyed or damaged by the explosion, but a broader upgrade would take city, provincial and federal support.