Over 40 new housing units are coming to the Dryden community after a significant provincial investment, with construction set to wrap up as soon as next summer.

The Kenora District Services Board, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford and representatives of the City of Dryden joined together to announce $1.6 million in provincial funding for a 41-unit seniors housing complex on April 21.

“We want to do more than just provide housing to seniors. [We also want to] create a sense of belonging and a sense of community,” explains the KDSB’s Chief Administrative Officer, Henry Wall, in an interview with Q104 and DrydenNow.

The housing units, first announced back in 2018, will be located on the current football fields at the former Pinewood school on Arthur Street, next-door to the new Homeward Bound program. Construction’s already underway and is set to be completed during the summer of 2023.

“Today’s provincial investment will help the Kenora District Services Board in serving the needs of seniors and elders, ensuring more community members will have a safe, affordable place to call home,” said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.

Homeward Bound is a partnership between the KDSB, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, the government and the Dryden Native Friendship Centre which aims to help single mothers and their children further their education and find employment.

Renovations to the now 15-unit building took place in 2018 after the KDSB purchased the property with the support of the province in 2017. It had been declared as surplus by the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board earlier that year.

“Fast forward a couple of years, we have young families with a childcare centre on one side of the property, and a seniors and elder development on the other side,” adds Wall.

[It was] very intentional to bring together generations of community members to one place. We’re not housing seniors out of sight, and we need to bring our children and seniors back together. It’s very exciting.”

Wall notes that this project will allow the KDSB to move seniors from existing housing units to newer units. The board then plans to renovate and modernize current units to support single, non-elderly residents, which Wall says is a significant need in the Dryden community.

“The creation of new senior and elder housing is a community vision coming to reality,” said KDSB Board Chair, Barry Baltessen.

“It is imperative that as a flourishing community, we can offer options that allow senior community members to stay in their community and age at home. We thank the province of Ontario for this funding allocation as it will greatly contribute to a thriving and diverse place to call home.”

The new seniors housing complex will include 40 seniors units, with many being accessible and others being multi-bedroom. The complex will also include a special unit for families who are coming to visit a senior within the complex, which allows them to stay closer to family and avoid hotel costs.

“It’s so difficult when families come to visit who are from out of town and they have to stay in hotels,” said Wall. “It doesn’t lend itself well. They’d love to spend as much time as possible with the senior. To actually have housing on site to allow for that to happen, we’re pretty excited to be able to create that.”

Marrbeck Construction and Keewatin-Aski LTD have been contracted for the development of the complex.