London News & Search
Mental to dental health, counseling, career planning, high school courses, even condoms.
A London youth service agency is pitching an ambitious plan to overhaul for young people a downtown street corner known for a former repertory theatre and a string of failed bars.
Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) has big plans for three addresses on the northwest side of Richmond and York streets, once home to GT’s bar and the New Yorker repertory cinema.
YOU plans to build a six-storey building with a 1,800 square metre youth services hub on the first and second floor and four levels of affordable housing for young mothers and families above.
Now, YOU is looking for funding to make the $15 million build happen.
“We are working right now on the opportunity to work with bigger-picture government for the youth hub piece,” said Holly Doty, campaign manager.
Doty said the housing development is going ahead — the agency wants to begin construction next spring — but it’s looking to the province and other community funding streams to get the service hub off the ground.
The Ontario government committed to supporting up to nine youth service partnerships in its 2017 budget and already has chosen three in Toronto and one in Chatham. YOU executive director Steve Cordes wants London to be the next.
He said there are “fantastic services out and about” in London, but “the services are sometimes harder to find than they should be. We’re really taking these wonderful services and putting them in a more easily accessible space.”
YOU’s committee has representatives from about 40 London groups, including city hospitals, school boards, the local Canadian Mental Health Association, the Cross Cultural Learner Centre, post-secondary schools, the area children’s aid society and youth themselves.
“It’s pretty exciting when we get together for a meeting and we don’t have enough chairs. There’s that much interest in the community,” said Lori Hassall, committee member representing the London-Middlesex CMHA.
Cordes said the next goal is to hash out which agencies would take part in the youth hub.
If the province backs the hub, Cordes said most of the money would be used to design the space, since participating agencies have their own funding.
The new YOU development is across the street from the agency’s $6.5-million converted heritage building, the Cornerstone. The upper floors of the building contain 30 units of transition and affordable housing for young people.
In 2011, the project came under fire for going $2.2 million over budget, thanks to the addition of a glass, rooftop boardroom, an elevator for three floors and 15 pillars to support a green roof.
In its glory days, the site YOU wants to redevelop housed GT’s, a student bar. After GT’s closed in 2008, it was followed by several night clubs that didn’t last.
YOU is now trying to fund its future expansion by reliving the past at a community event Sept. 15. The agency is inviting Londoners into the old downtown haunt to bid on refurbished items and learn more about the redevelopment project.
“We’ll have live bands that played at GT’s and we’ll have acoustic bands on the patio and a barbecue,” said Doty. “It’s a chance for us to welcome people back into the building, kind of showcase it and do something fun.”
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- Redevelopment of 329, 331 and 333 Richmond St.
- Six-storey building planned
- Four floors of affordable housing, two-level youth services hub
- 36 to 40 affordable housing units for young mothers and families
- 1,800 sq. m youth hub on first and second floors
- Former site of GT’s bar and New Yorker repertory cinema
London News & Search