L - R: Carla Devlin, Mayor Shelley Hart, Lois Swistun
Moving into a new home is exciting, but it often takes time before it becomes that familiar place, lived in and comfy like an old sweater.
That won't be the case for Lois Swistun, a former Birds Hill resident who, along with her partner, will be moving back here, and into the new Silver Ridge Condominium under construction now at the corner of Birds Hill Road and Agar Street.
Birds Hill is where Lois grew up and where she and her husband lived and raised their family until moving north to Grand Pines.
"This is home," 85 year old Lois said, referring to the community, but there's no doubt she'll fast consider the condo the same way.
"I'm very pleased that this is happening. I'm really looking forward to moving in. It's gonna be nice."
The eight-unit condo/apartment building is in the early stages of construction now, and when its frame rises above the ground, it will be the first multi-family dwelling ever built in the village.
Mayor Shelley Hart concedes there are the few apartments atop a business down the road, but this development is the first, stand-alone condo/apartment approved in the municipality.
She said though East St. Paul is known as a municipality of spacious, half-acre lots, times are changing, and so too are attitudes.
"It was something that I heard at the doors when I was campaigning two years ago, that there is a need for multi-family development," Hart said.
"Some residents want to be able to downsize and stay in East St. Paul and what we've done without having these kinds of options available is we've forced people to leave the community."
And while minds may have started to change, Hart and the rest of council knew that for a multi-family project to be accepted in Birds Hill, it would have to be done the right way.
Enter Carla Devlin of Carrington Property Developments. Devlin, herself an East St. Paul resident, said from the day she "slammed on the brakes", when she saw the "for sale" sign on the property, she knew what she wanted to do. And how she wanted to do it.
"I just always thought to myself the community really needs a multi-family project to keep seniors in their town. It's sad that they have to leave after x amount of years," Devlin says.
The property was zoned Residential, so rezoning to Multi-Family was required. Hart said though the rezoning meant a public hearing would be required, Devlin held two public meetings on her own to make sure the public understood what she wanted to do.
And, Devlin wanted to hear the community's desires too. Her original proposal was for a 10-unit building but she scaled it back to eight to allow for two bathrooms per unit, when she discovered that's what people wanted.
She addressed parking issues and went with a two-storey building so it wouldn't impact sight lines.
Her willingness to work with the community was well received, and by the time the actual public hearing came around, there was no opposition, just support. Hart said that's impressive.
"Carla did an exceptional job of doing the work before she applied for the permit and before the public hearing ... when the public hearing took place in council, it was unprecedented, there was not one person registered in opposition. That was an incredible testament to the community consultation Carla did prior to the public hearing," Hart said.
"I think it also speaks to people's shifting attitudes on condos."