Elmwood residence for older adults like a 'League of Nations'

Note: This is the second of our ongoing series on living options in Sudbury’s housing sector for seniors.

The Elmwood in Coniston is actually visible from Highway 17. From the Trans-Canada Highway, it seems to float in a sea of green. Its multiple stories make it the tallest structure in Coniston, save for the long retired twin stacks Inco (now Vale) used to operate.

“The Elmwood is an affordable, safe, modern, net-zero energy apartment complex, that provides support for seniors in a social setting that prevents isolation,” says Les Lisk, president of the Coniston Seniors Nonprofit Housing Corporation, with discernable pride.

Understandable, as he has been the lodestone for the project.

It is time for a site visit and a deeper dive into what options this building offers seniors. For starters, the units are outfitted with more than the basics. Kitchen installations are nearing completion and boxes are being opened in each unit. Fresh fridges, pristine countertops, sparkling dishwashers, un-christened stovetops and ovens are waiting for their first meal preparation. Everything is brand new.

“A net-zero energy approach has been incorporated into all aspects of the design of The Elmwood," Lisk says. "Our architect, Sheena Sharpe, designed this building with features such as a highly insulated wood structure, triple pane windows, elevators that produce energy while in use, CO2 water heaters, fresh air energy recovery, and electric energy efficient heat pumps for each apartment … with a dedicated HEPA filter.”

The exterior walls are 16 inches thick with an R60 insulation rating. The visit on a very hot afternoon demonstrated comfortable conditions in entry, hallways and units.

It is also so quiet between units. The LED lighting systems make the hallways bright and friendly. Everything about this project appears well thought out.

Lisk points out unique elements as we do the walk-through.

“All have their own washer and condensate clothes dryers en suite," he says. "This is another highly energy-efficient choice here.”

'Blue sky dreaming'

Controlling your own thermostats for heating and cooling plus access to fresh air, from windows that open, is attractive. Every unit has a balcony too.

Much of the added appeal came out of the early “blue sky dreaming” possibilities prior to the design stage.

“Look here … this is the charging station for electric bikes and scooters,” beams Lisk.

Wider doorways, adherence to new regulations on handle hardware, and switches at a reasonable height for all just make sense. Lisk continues: “All apartments have large roll-in showers, raised toilets and other features that help make life as a senior more manageable.”

What about accessibility? Ten units are completely designed for handicapped individuals. The kitchen and bathrooms are adapted to meet the needs of a wide range of disabilities.

“We encourage the residents to bring in any additional supports and services they need for maintaining and improving quality of life,” Lisk says.

Generous bathrooms are based on the number of bedrooms. There are one- or two-bedroom and even three-bedroom arrangements. You could use one as a den.

At $1,450, $1,550, and $2,200 for the three-bedroom arrangement, these are affordable. Most services are included.

Lisk says yes, you can paint as you wish, but you have to return to the original colour palate when you vacate.

This project sets a new standard, and is the first of its kind, he says.

Now, just over two years after the ground-breaking at 11 Elm St., the Elmwood project is complete and ready for move-in.

Founded in 2012

Coniston Non-Profit Seniors Housing Board, founded in 2012, spearheaded the 55-unit affordable housing project, which is geared toward seniors and supported by partners such as the City of Greater Sudbury and the federal government.

“The completion of the Elmwood is an amazing milestone for Nickel Belt,” Nickel Belt MP Marc says in a release. “The Coniston Non-Profit Seniors Housing Corporation has done a tremendous job of responding to community needs with a sustainable housing solution.”

Elmwood is partially funded through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative, a National Housing Strategy program that provides low-cost funding to eligible borrowers during the riskiest phases of the development of rental apartments. The program allows for the community to direct and develop projects and to control them as time goes on.

Serre made in 2021 made an announcement on behalf of the then minister of housing, diversity and inclusion, of nearly $18 million in low-cost insured loans through CMHC to support the project. That was added to other federal investments, including $40,000 for seed money to generate a feasibility study and $250,000 in pre-development funds for re-zoning processes.

“Canada Mortgage and Housing asked us to prove the community was behind this," Lisk recalls. We had a lineup with interested citizens who brought first and last month's payments immediately.”

This sure got the ball rolling.

“We are willing to share our ideas, plans and process with any group or community. We can give them guidance. MP Marc Serre has encouraged other communities to dialogue with us. Plan on at least one more building here as we have 17 acres. We are looking at other sites in other areas of the city.”

Solar will be included in future projects. There is a generous 1.5 parking space allocation per unit.

The two-story tall bright common space is hugely attractive. It has a direct access patio that is south-facing.

Willing to share expertise

“There will also be barbecues, flower beds and vegetable gardens with opportunities that promote physical fitness," Lisk says. "We know that living with interaction is very important. This will be a beautiful fully equipped community room where all are welcome to gather.”

It has a full kitchen for large gatherings.

“It has been a League of Nations that built this. Some days we had eight or more different countries represented. Even though there were many languages, there was always a team approach amongst the workers and trades to getting the job done.

"Ron Belanger has been critical in making the building materialize and progress happen here every day.”

Why is this such an important project? It goes beyond addressing one single requirement. “With our aging population, there is definitely a serious need for our type of building. This project has also allowed residents of Coniston to sell their homes to young families and therefore rejuvenate our town and schools.

"All communities need ‘new blood’ to stay vital.”

Lisk and this community are definitely in tune with the trends and requirements of a modern Canada.

At this time, the building is fully subscribed and even has a wait list. However, you can always view for more information and to make contact with the administrators.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

X: @SudburyStar

Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star