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Green light given for assisted-living structure for downtown

A four-storey assisted-living structure — with two levels of parking — has had two variances re-approved for 611 Vernon Street, adjacent to the Salvation Army building. Photo — Vendure Retirement Communities

What is old is new again.

Variances on the maximum height and lot coverage percentage for a proposed downtown development have been renewed, possibly giving the major housing development the momentum it needs to reboot.

Slated for downtown at 611 Vernon Street, the 125-suite proposal had appeared on the municipal stage two years ago when Kelowna-based Vendure Retirement Communities made its initial pitch to council on the project.

However, as the project has not started, and provincial legislation requires the building permit holder to “substantially start” construction within two years, the permit was in danger of lapsing.

“The project was delayed due to unforeseen complications with the site and obtaining financing during the Covid-19 pandemic,” noted a city staff report.

There were no proposed changes from the previously approved development permit from 2018, with the exception of two additional accessible parking stalls and 10 electric vehicle-ready stalls (required by the Off-Street Parking and Landscaping Bylaw).

Coun. Jesse Woodward asked about the nature of the building.

“So, the building is not freehold but basically it is a rental building?” he asked.

“Yes, it is basically a rental facility specifically designed for seniors. And then there are increasing levels of care, depending on the specific needs,” said city senior planner Natalie Andrijancic.

Despite some concerns about the four-storey assisted-living structure, council re-approved the variances, giving the nod to a height variance — due to the slope of the land — and a lot coverage variance from the 90 per cent allowed (94 in total).

It was noted that the proposed building’s height above street level would only be 13 metres, the same height as the Adventure Hotel and the Hume Hotel, and within downtown requirements.

“The one thing that has happened with this project because it has been delayed is if they don’t apply before Jan. 1, which they probably won’t, they will be required to build to Step Code 2,” explained city building inspector Sam Ellison.

That means they will have to have better designed and efficient mechanical systems.

Vendure now plans on starting construction this spring.

State-of-the art in the downtown

Kelowna-based Vendure Retirement Communities has plans for a 125-suite state-of-the-art residences for the downtown, with the aim to create a more resort style, active living situation for seniors to live in, right in the heart of the city.

The privately funded and owned project is regulated by the B.C. Registrar and the B.C. Seniors Living Association, and will take approximately two years to build.

Vendure conducted a market analysis — through a third party study — for the city and the area and also included Trail and Castlegar, but settled on Nelson as the ideal place for the facility. The demand was there in Nelson, with almost a doubling in a demand for assisted living units in the city by 2026.

The facility will provide assisted living services, with several comfort services such as laundry, chapel, library, therapy room, elevated gardens, bistro/lounge and gymnasium, all things that enhance the lifestyle.

Not only will the city benefit from the construction jobs, but it is expected that up to 90 full and part-time positions will be created by the project once it is done.

The project will be four storeys above the Vernon Street grade, with the main story including 4,000 square feet of non-residential space, likely for a pharmacy or doctor’s offices.

There will be three exterior courtyards — one on the roof and two above the parkade — with a design that will compliment Nelson’s downtown heritage feel.

The units will be leased and will not be for sale — there will be no individual unit sales made — with couples allowed and some units with kitchens. Nursing care will be available 24/7 for residents who may require this service.

The use of solar energy will be explored as will a car share program. The project will not be green built but it will be utilizing a number of environmentally sound practices.

Building height

The Zoning Bylaw calculates building height by taking the average of all the corners from the highest point of the building, excluding elevator shafts.

Due to the large depression from Vernon Street to the bottom of the property the average height of the proposed building will be 18.5 metres.

On a flat site, a five-storey building with underground parking could meet the 16 m. maximum building height.

The proposed building height at Vernon Street will be just under 13 m., which is well under the allowed 16 m. in this zone. Other buildings in this area include the Adventure Hotel at 13 m., the Hume Hotel at 13 m., and the Nelson Commons received a height variance to 17 m.

— Source: City of Nelson