It was just over three years ago that an independent contractor doing kitchen cabinet refurbishments came across mould in nearly all the units at 42 Hubbard Boulevard, an apartment complex owned by Toronto Community Housing (TCH).
The discovery prompted TCH to evacuate the building and relocate all residents with the assurance that they would be welcomed back after renovations.
Last month, some of those residents began their move back to the complex after an extensive construction project that saw the building gutted for the exception of the southern wall.
But not all. Nearly half of the 26 original tenants have chosen not to come back to the lake front property.
“Some people, because of personal situations, family, relationships, have decided to stay where they had moved to,” said Lizette Zuniga, Director of Development and Real Estate at TCH.
The project was a challenge because of the desire to keep the existing facades. A section of the south wall was torn down to allow construction equipment inside in order to gut the building and build from the inside out.
Former Ward 32 councilor Sandra Bussin and local residents felt strongly about keeping the front facade of the building, which was built in the 1920s. From a zoning aspect, it allowed the footprint of the building to stay as is, instead of having to conform to current zoning by-laws, which require bigger setbacks on the property.
“We had a great architect and a great contractor,” said Zuniga of Van Elslander Carter Architects and Lisgar Construction.
The building now has a redesigned front lobby with a state of the art elevator and security cameras. Stained glass windows have been preserved and used throughout the building as functional windows or as decorative pieces.
On top of the building, there is a roof-top garden, a large patio area and the laundry room. The wooden joists from the old building were re-used on a wall on the rooftop.
“We have very high standards in terms of sustainability, so all our newly constructed buildings are very energy efficient,” said Zuniga.
Insulation was also put in place in the current building, something that was lacking in the previous structure. High efficiency boilers, individually controlled unit thermostats, and solar panels on the roof have been installed.
Individual units now have dual flush toilets and are equipped with fire safe stove tops. Window sills are made out of man-made marble to prevent moisture build up.
Old windows have been replaced with fibreglass windows, which are more energy efficient. They also have built-in sensors that automatically shut off or turn on the heating or air conditioning depending on how long they have been opened. This is a first for a TCH property.
“At the end of the day, we wanted to have a more functional and energy efficient building,” said Zuniga.
Deborah Beaven is one of the tenants who returned to the complex on Jan. 13. For the past three years she has lived on Elmer and Norway and has anxiously awaited the completion of the project.
“I’ve lived here for 22 years. I’m very pleased to be home again,” said Beaven as she walked her two great danes on the boardwalk.
“They’ve done a spectacular job with the building. I’m glad they kept some of the features like the stained glass…they kept their promise. They made good,” she said.
Beaven added that some of the old tenants, particularly the older ones, didn’t want to move back because they just couldn’t handle another move.
The exact cost of the project is not yet being disclosed. The budget was based on a grant of just over four million dollars from the Social Housing Renovation and Retrofit Program fund.
Mara Nicolaou, Senior Construction Manager at TCH, talked about the concerns that some of the residents had during the construction process. She admitted there were some disruptions to the neighbourhood which TCH worked hard to resolve immediately.
“Through the one year and a half construction we had tenant updates that we did distribute to them…and we distributed them to the neighbours as well to let them know what we were doing and what was coming up. I think they really appreciated that,” said Nicolaou.
A local resident who lives on Scarboro Beach Boulevard told us that during the construction there were no big concerns from the residents.
“Just the normal noise you’d expect from a construction site, and parking was at a premium,” she said.
Of the new building, she said that “it looks nice and I really hope it is kept nice. It is a different clientele in there, and we did have issues in the past. But I hope there will be none in the future.”