A bulldozer appeared at 70 Arlington Dr. this week, marking the first step in a construction project that will transform the former school site into a 30-unit affordable housing complex named Aurora Place.
The earth-moving work is the precursor to the installation of water, sewer and road services, which will be done by the end of August, said Alfred Nikolai, CEO of Habitat For Humanity Edmonton, the developer of the site.
Nikolai plans to have eight homes framed on one day in September. No specific date has been set. Volunteers will finish four of the homes before Christmas and the remaining four during the winter, he said. The plan is to start and finish the remaining 22 homes in 2012.
“I feel ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic. It’s 30 families that we’re helping and that’s why I feel good,” Nikolai said.
Habitat is currently interviewing eight St. Albert families for Aurora Place and is processing four more applications, Nikolai said.
About 10 to 15 families have already attended Habitat’s information sessions and are expected to apply, while a number of families have signed up for future sessions, he said.
Fundraising is in place for this year’s builds, he said.
“I think the citizens of St. Albert will be pleased to see some of our corporate donors that are stepping forward, putting money into St. Albert,” he added.
“The money is not in place for the 22 homes next year but we’re confident that we’ll get it,” Nikolai said.
The site at 70 Arlington Dr. was a lightning rod for controversy for about a year as the proposed development wound its way through the city’s approval process. It received council approval last fall.
The city provided the $840,000 from the province’s affordable housing money to allow Habitat to buy the land.
The Protestant school board owned the site for years but declared it unneeded for a school. The board’s repeated efforts to sell the land for various developments were blocked by neighbourhood residents who didn’t want the bare field developed.
For Akinsdale resident Dave Evans, who was among a group that fought the latest development, seeing a bulldozer on site was inevitable but still a bitter pill.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on it to see whether they finish it within the allotted three years,” he said.
“It’s pretty tough having a major construction site right in the middle of an established neighbourhood.”