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'Tsunami coming': Builders asked for 1,500 homes per year to meet St. Thomas, Ont. demand

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Home builders in St. Thomas are preparing for a tidal wave of new residents in the next decade.

“We talk at work about the tsunami that’s coming,” said Shane Tarry, past-president of the St. Thomas Home Builders Association.

He added, “With the Volkswagen battery plant coming to town, they're projecting 3,000 jobs locally and up to 30,000 spin off jobs. In speaking with the mayor [Joe Preston] in the spring, he said, ‘I know I told you 500 homes a years was what we need but now it's more like 1,500.’”

To meet some of that demand, work is underway on the city’s newest apartment building.

“It's called the Highlands so it's going to be high, and it's going to be elevated living,” said Jeff House, owner of Fast Forward Ventures who are building the 14-storey high-rise at Talbot Street and First Avenue, the city’s main intersection.

“It's going to be the highest building here in St. Thomas,” he added.

The foundation is currently being dug up, and the apartment is expected to be open within two years. There are currently more than 200 people on the wait list for 162 units.

A rendering of the inside of an apartment at the Highlands, a 14-storey, 162-unit apartment building at the main intersection in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: Fast Forward Ventures)

“Our waitlist and signup list just launched, so there's been a crazy amount of demand right off the bat,” said House.

Sarah Ceccarelli is hoping her parents will get one of those apartments. They are on the verge of retirement in Winnipeg, Man.

“We moved here two-and-a-half years ago from out west,” said Ceccarelli. “My parents may come in a couple of years and it would be perfect timing for the development to be ready to go.”

Ceccarelli said she’s been looking at the rental market in the city, and there isn’t much available.

“You don't want to sacrifice what you love in the luxury of certain things,” she said. “Having a house, there's all that maintenance and all that upkeep so a rental apartment unit is a great option for them especially with the perfect location.”

Sarah Ceccarelli is hoping her parents will get a home in the new apartment building in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: Brent Lale/CTV London)

Phase one of the development began with retail stores along Talbot Street. Phase two is the new tower, and there is even plans for a phase three tower on site, adjacent to the Highlands.

“We want to bring a rental apartment to the marketplace where you can literally walk to pick up your groceries, go grab a coffee from Starbucks, go to the bank which is right here, so all the amenities,” said House.

He added, “We just really want to have a great lifestyle for people where they can get everything done that they need to almost like a little community.”

All of the apartments in the Highlands will be rentals, with five affordable housing units. 

The Highlands is a 14-storey, 162-unit apartment building at the main intersection in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: Brent Lale/CTV News London)

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