$2.3 million retrofits old into new
AMHERST – Two downtown buildings doomed to the wrecking ball have new life and are officially open and affordable.
© Christopher Gooding photo
The former St. Charles School and a neighbouring office building were given their official second lease on life as affordable apartments in Amherst downtown core, with (from left) Amherst Deputy Mayor Lisa Emery, developer James Barkley, Nova Scotia Minister of Community Services Joanne Bernard, Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong and Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell taking part in Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
A former office building and the retired St. Charles School neighbouring each other on Crescent Street were vacant, boarded up and thought beyond their prime but now are home to more than 40 affordable housing units, thanks to $810,000 in federal and provincial funding through the joint affordable housing agreement between the two governments, and private investments.
“We started in October  and were finished in June,” Barkley said. “Everything was a challenge; everything was concrete and steel and just the shear size of it.”
The job wasn’t without its surprises, sometimes daily, Barkley said but the end result is a $2.3 million investment in the downtown that will bring affordable housing to those who need it.
“I’m excited this project came to life,” Barkley said. “We had a pair of buildings that would regularly be slated for demolition given new life. For that, I’m grateful.”
Moving forward, the Nova Scotia government is committing approximately $625,000 over the next 10 years in rent supplement to make the apartments affordable.
“As the Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I am delighted that these buildings in my home riding have been given a second lease on life,” Scott Armstrong said. “This is great news for people in housing need, and for Amherst itself. By providing more rental options for local residents these new housing units will contribute to the economic and social well-being of the entire community.”
“Housing developments such as these are not just an investment in the bricks and mortar of the building,” Nova Scotia Minister of Community Services Joanne Bernard said. “They are a first and foremost an investment in building stronger communities and stronger families in Nova Scotia.”
The apartment buildings were given their official send-off on Friday, and present was a former student of St. Charles Elementary who lauded the new life given to her former academic institution.
“What a lovely job he’s done with this building,” Amherst Deputy Mayor Lisa Emery said. “You’ve brought a beautiful housing unit to the downtown for our residents.”