Cornerstone provides supportive housing for 46 in renovated school

The ribbon-cutting on April 17 to open the new Cornerstone supportive housing building at 44 Eccles. Cornerstone board chair Mark Holzman is second from left. MP Yasir Naqvi and Councillor Ariel Troster (clapping) are also present. (Alayne McGregor)
The ribbon-cutting on April 17 to open the new Cornerstone supportive housing building at 44 Eccles. Cornerstone board chair Mark Holzman is second from left. MP Yasir Naqvi and Councillor Ariel Troster (clapping) are also present. (Alayne McGregor)

This article has had additional photos added from the printed version.

Alayne McGregor

A new supportive housing building for women and gender-diverse people opened at 44 Eccles Street on April 22.

It’s the newest residence for Cornerstone Housing for Women, and provides 46 fully equipped bachelor suites for those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Twelve units are also fully accessible. Thirty percent are dedicated to Indigenous people. Residents have come from the city’s central housing registry; all 46 spaces have already been allocated.

The residents will receive daily support from staff to help them access healthcare, develop life skills, and connect with community resources – and have fun at bingo and movie nights. Support will also be available from partners: Minwaashin Lodge, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, the Elizabeth Fry Society, Family Services Ottawa – Around the Rainbow, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Ottawa Inner City Health.

The building provides permanent housing, with no limit on how long residents stay. Most will pay rent, but not more than they can afford.

Each studio apartment in Cornerstone's supportive housing building at 44 Eccles contains a kitchenette and bathroom. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
Each studio apartment in Cornerstone’s supportive housing building at 44 Eccles contains a kitchenette and bathroom. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)

The BUZZ toured the four-storey building during the opening fundraiser. Each bright, well-appointed apartment comes with a kitchenette, bathroom, bed with quilt, and seating areas. Even dishes, pots, cleaning supplies, and towels are provided. The previous parking lot has been turned into an outdoor garden and seating area.

A heritage building saved

The 3.5-storey building is in the city’s heritage register. It was designed by Georges Lucien Émile Leblanc and opened in 1936 as École St. Dominique. Lost Ottawa said it was the primary school for francophone Catholic girls in LeBreton Flats and Rochesterville Districts and remained a school at least into the 1970s.

It was then converted into offices. Cornerstone started renovating the building in June 2022.

Maintaining the fabric of the neighbourhood

Mark Holzman, the chair of Cornerstone’s board, said that Cornerstone deliberately looked for an older building to convert.

“It’s not necessarily cheaper, it’s not necessarily faster, it’s definitely more complicated, but at the end of the day, I believe it’s better because you’ve created new housing opportunities but you’ve maintained the fabric of the neighbourhood.”

He said they took extra care to preserve the front facade and its windows, and put an artistic wave pattern on the rear rather than plain panels. Almost everything (heating, water, etc.) was replaced, allowing Cornerstone to make the building energy-efficient. More systems like solar panels could be added if they receive further funding.

Cornerstone has retained the original stairs from the school, with their bannisters and metal railings. The stair treads are new and in Cornerstone purple. They're likely to be well used in the four-storey building, which has only one small elevator. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
Cornerstone has retained the original stairs from the school, with their bannisters and metal railings. The stair treads are new and in Cornerstone purple. They’re likely to be well used in the four-storey building, which has only one small elevator. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)

The staircases remain from the school, however, with the original bannisters and metal railings – just brightened up with purple rubber treads.

Funding for the renovation came from the federal Rapid Housing Initiative-2 Stream, as well as the province and the city. Cornerstone is still asking for about $300,000 in donations to finish paying for start-up costs for the building.

Read the BUZZ’s earlier story:

More photos of the new building:

A quilt decorates a hall in Cornerstone's new supportive housing building at 44 Eccles. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
A quilt decorates a hall in Cornerstone’s new supportive housing building at 44 Eccles. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
Each studio apartment in Cornerstone's supportive housing building at 44 Eccles contains a kitchenette and bathroom. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
Each studio apartment in Cornerstone’s supportive housing building at 44 Eccles contains a kitchenette and bathroom. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)

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