Affordable housing project sees $100K funding boost from group of London ER doctors

A rendering of the proposed revelopment of the War Memorial building. Vision SoHo Alliance

A major affordable housing project in the works on the grounds of the city’s former South Street hospital has been given a shot in the arm by a group of local emergency department doctors.

The 75-member group London Emergency Medicine Associates has made a $100,000 donation to the charity Indwell in support of the Vision SoHo Alliance housing project.

The donation was spearheaded by Bill McCauley, a local emergency physician, who brought forward the idea to the group and found “overwhelming support.”

“I initially said, ‘Look, if we are able to get at least half of the group willing to donate and get an amount of $50,000, then I would move it forward as a group donation,'” McCauley said.

“The group just said, ‘You know what? Let’s not do it as individuals. Let’s do it as a whole group and let’s make it $100,000.'”

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Indwell is one of several local groups that have joined together through the London Community Foundation under the name Vision SoHo Alliance.

A rendering of the redeveloped Victoria Health Science Building. Vision SoHo Alliance

The Alliance is looking to construct hundreds of mixed-income units on the former hospital grounds, bounded by Colborne, Hill, South and Waterloo streets, that range in price from market rate to “deeply affordable.”

The plan will see Indwell repurpose the existing War Memorial and Victoria Health Science buildings, constructed in 1922 and 1921, respectively, with a total of around 140 units.

“When I found out about this project, it struck a number of chords with me,” McCauley said.

For one, many patient populations they serve have difficulty with stable housing, or struggle with substance use disorders, McCauley says.

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“The project that Indwell is doing really, really supports and serves that patient population that we care for on a daily basis,” he said.

“That combined with the fact that South Street was a significant site in my career – it’s where I trained and where I started working. Many people in emergency departments, both physicians and nurses, got their start there.”

In addition to the South Street hospital project, Indwell operates the 67-unit Woodfield Gate Apartments in the downtown core, and is constructing a second building, the 72-unit Embassy Commons, on the site of the former Embassy Hotel in the Old East Village.

The agency describes itself as a “Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities that support people seeking health, wellness and belonging,” according to its website.

The War Memorial and Victoria Health Sciences buildings of the former South Street Hospital complex, Feb. 1, 2022. Matthew Trevithick

The city’s former Victoria Hospital, later called South Street Hospital, first opened in 1875 as London General, the city’s first substantial hospital.

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Expanded several times and renamed over the decades, the hospital continued in operation until 2013 when it was closed by London Health Sciences Centre. By then, most services, except for some outpatient units, had been moved to the city’s other hospitals.

In 2014, a majority of the hospital complex, including the main facade constructed in the 1940s, was demolished. The War Memorial and Victoria Health Sciences buildings were saved, and have stood unused since.

The historic Colborne Wing, built in 1899 at the southwest corner of Colborne and South streets, was also spared, and is set to be repurposed by Medallion Corporation as part of a residential development being erected where the main hospital building stood.

— with files from Natalie Lovie, Devon Peacock

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