'Our patience and determination paid off': Legion apartment building will be fully occupied by June

Occupancy of the new Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 apartment building will take place over the next two months, with the move-in process expected to wrap up by the end of June.

SalDan Developments president Sam Biasucci provided this update after giving Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen a tour of the nine-storey, 108-unit complex on Wednesday afternoon alongside Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan and members of the local legion.

Talking to the media afterwards, Biasucci said caretakers will be welcomed into this building within a week, setting the stage for veterans and their families to begin moving in during the first or second week of May.

"It's not a slow process, but it's not a fast process," Biasucci said. "We have to move in 108 families. It takes some time. We will probably accomplish two to three (families) a day."

Biasucci also used Wednesday's press conference to publicly thank Minister Hussen, who visited the building site in January 2023 to announce that the federal government will provide $32.1 million (through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund) to help this project come to fruition.

This funding ended up paying for the new apartment building/legion hall hybrid in its entirety, which originally came with a price tag of around $30 million.

"Everything you see has been within the budget," Biasucci said during Wednesday's press conference at 96 Great Northern Road.

"We're not over budget by a dime. Everything fit in perfectly and that was absolutely what we've asked for. We got what we asked for. We made it work 100 per cent."

The building itself serves as a replacement for the old Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 headquarters, which was torn down in the summer of 2022 after occupying 96 Great Northern Road for 55 years.

This new building provides affordable housing options for veterans and other local residents, while also featuring amenities such as a gathering hall, laundry facilities, meeting rooms and some museum space for legion members to display various military artefacts.

Hussen used Wednesday's press conference to remark on the uniqueness of this project and how it could serve as a model for other Canadian legions moving forward.

"This project really serves as an example of what can happen when private sector leadership, the local legion and the local member of Parliament bring forward an innovative project that can then unlock federal funding," he said.

The minister also mentioned that this project fits perfectly into the federal government's vision laid out in its latest budget, which aims to alleviate the country's housing crisis by building 3.87 million new homes by 2031.

"It shows that when communities leverage federal housing dollars, people end up with high-quality, affordable homes. And here we are," Hussen said.

Legion Branch 25 president Pierre Breckenridge was also on hand for Wednesday's press conference and thanked all parties involved for giving the local legion "the opportunity to put us in a position to be financially secure for the next hundred years."

"This project is a pathfinding project," Breckenridge said. "It was unique in a lot of ways. And we worked with (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and our member of Parliament and the minister to find the correct levers to pull. And our patience and determination paid off."

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 has been operating in Sault Ste. Marie since 1928.


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

Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star