Sarnians can expect to see the first new homes going up on the former Sarnia General Hospital as soon as the weather allows this spring.
It’s been just over a year since the final bricks fell from the hospital’s demolition, creating 14 lots for single-family housing, two large commercial blocks, and a new chapter for the central city neighbourhood.
A plan of subdivision was approved and five of the 11 lots fronting Essex Street were sold in November, said Mark Lumley, one of five co-owners of GFIVE Inc., which bought the property from the city in 2017.
The commercial blocks fronting Mitton and George streets are on the market.
“It’s ready to go for whatever the community needs,” Lumley said. “Our schedule is, as soon as somebody wants them. There’s a lot of interest but we haven’t gotten any offers to purchase yet.”
The GFIVE team — Lumley, Charlie Dally, Alex Jongsma, Marty Raaymakers and Ken Poore — hope as the new housing begins to rise it will stimulate more interest in the property.
“(The empty hospital building) was an ugly hotbed for vandalism… it’s hard to change the mindset of people, but it’s coming,” Lumley said.
After the hospital officially closed in 2014 it became a magnet for vandalism and thieves stripping it of wire, pipe and other materials.
City council unanimously agreed to sell the asbestos-filled building and 7.5 acres to GFIVE for $1,000, and give the company $5.4 million to raze, remediate and rebuild on the derelict site.
The plan was and remains for a mix of new housing, offices and possibly commercial space.
The asbestos abatement and demolition took contractors longer than expected, but was done with little neighbourhood disruption and resulted in much of the building material being recycled.
“I think things went almost exactly as planned, except for the time,” Lumley said. “It took about nine months longer than we had planned to be at this stage.”
This year, a city block of seeded green space ready for development has replaced a community eyesore and problem for police.
“We’re not really developers,” Lumley said. “Realistically, we’re more just a bunch of guys with a keen interest in the wellbeing of our community and we’re not afraid to take a few risks in order to see a big-picture, good-thing happen in the end,” he said.
“And hopefully we make some money along the way.”