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New major project announced for city’s downtown

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
October 4th, 2018

Another big building project is slated to grace the city’s downtown skyline to help fill what has been identified as an unfulfilled area of need.

A four-storey assisted-living structure — with two levels of parking — has been proposed by a Kelowna-based developer for 611 Vernon Street, adjacent to the Salvation Army building.

Vendure Retirement Communities has drawn up plans for the 125-suite state-of-the-art residences for the downtown, and will be applying for two variances on the vacant property this month to begin moving the development forward.

The city is a unique opportunity, said Vendure director Joseph Schlachter when he spoke to city council recently, where seniors are living and do not want to leave, but want to move out of their current home.

“The city of Nelson was identified through a feasibility study as a thriving community with a strong demand for seniors care homes and services,” he said.

The aim for the project is to create a more resort style, active living situation for seniors to live in, said Schlachter, right in the heart of the city.

“This is a very significant project with a lot of moving pieces here,” said city Development Services manager Pam Mierau, noting that the variances will be coming before Oct. 9.

Of two variances being requested, one of them is a height variance due to the slope of the land, and lot coverage variance from the 90 per cent allowed (94 in total).

Schlachter said 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 is there in Nelson, said Schlachter, with almost a doubling in a demand for assisted living units in the city by 2026.

The company looked at number of properties in all three markets, and had several options but the Vernon Street property jumped out as number one due to its location.

“Some of the things that seniors look for is accessibility to services, although we do provide shuttle services and things like that twice a week to help them out with appointments,” said Schlachter.

“They are looking to get out, walk the streets, do some shopping, walk their pets, whatever the case might be.”

The property was already zoned for the application Vendure wanted it for.

“This has long been a piece of land that has been talked about for years for various projects,” said Mayor Deb Kozak.

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, said Schlachter.

“The expectations for seniors coming in now is a one-stop shop,” he said.

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.

“We want it to be a compliment to the community, we don’t want some big, institutional eyesore plunked down in the middle of main street and in the middle of Nelson,” Schlachter said.

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, he added.

“These are the resident’s homes and we want them to be proud of where they are at. A lot of complications that come with senior’s housing is it is institutional and depressing and not a place seniors can thrive in.”

The units will be leased and will not be for sale, said Schlachter — 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 carshare program.

The project will not be green built but it will be utilizing a number of environmentally sound practices.

Vendure specializes in the design, development and operations of retirement communities, including a 75-bed facility in Salmon Arm built several years ago.

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