134-unit seniors complex pitched for Jubilee, seen as ‘desperately needed’

A new five-storey building dedicated to a range of seniors care is being proposed for 1900 Richmond Rd. in the North Jubilee neighbourhood.

It’s the latest seniors project either under construction or planned in Greater Victoria as Canada’s population ages and forecasts predict the need for specialized housing will continue to grow.

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Milliken Real Estate Corp. is seeking a rezoning for the site. The project would replace a medical building known for its Rod of Asclepius, an ancient symbol associated with medicine, fixed on the exterior facing Fort Street. It depicts a snake entwined on a rod.

The new Maison Victoria building would go up at the intersection of Fort and Birch streets.

Craig Abercrombie, architect with Norr Architects Engineers and Planners, said from Calgary that plans call for a continuum of care, with 64 assisted care units, 32 memory care units (devoted to people dealing with dementia) and 38 independent-living units, for a total of 134 units. Numbers are still being fine-tuned. Commercial space is planned for the ground floor.

Emily Pridham, manager of regional services for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. in Victoria, said that about 60 per cent of the 70,000 B.C. residents diagnosed with dementia are living at home, alone or with a caregiver. Most will eventually transfer into residential care. “We are excited to see that families are having more and more choices and more options,” she said. “It is encouraging to see more recognition in the community for creating dementia-friendly living options.”

Maison Victoria would join Milliken’s other facilities, Maison Senior Living in West Vancouver and Maison Senior Living in Calgary, each with wait lists, Abercrombie said. The developer would retain ownership.

Seniors units are “desperately needed,” Abercrombie said.

New facilities for seniors are less institutional than in the past and typically have more amenities, he said, citing dining rooms, libraries, bistros, pubs and games rooms.

If all goes smoothly, construction would begin in spring 2019 and continue for 20 to 24 months, Abercrombie said.

The capital region is a retirement destination. People who are retiring or plan to retire in Greater Victoria are among buyers fueling the real estate market.

Statistics Canada’s 2016 census states that the average age of a Greater Victoria citizen is 44.5 years old. And 21 per cent of the population is 65 years or older.

In comparison, Calgary has a younger demographic, with an average age 37.6 years and 11.3 per cent of the population 65 and older.

Canada could need 43,000 new long-term care beds within five years to meet the needs of its aging population, the Conference Board of Canada said in a November 2017 report.

By 2035, that number could rise to 199,000, it said. There are currently 255,000 long-term care beds in Canada, it said.

The “number of Canadians with the highest demand for long-term care, those aged 75 and up, will be growing rapidly over the coming years,” the board said.

Southern Vancouver Island has a total of 3,363 publicly subsidized seniors care beds, while the entire Island Health region has 6,557 beds. In addition, there are private seniors facilities without subsidized beds.

Victoria’s Denford family has been a leader in providing seniors care since 1989, developing amenity-rich Berwick Retirement Communities facilities in Victoria, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Comox and Kamloops.

Another group, Avenir Senior Living, is hoping to build a 12-storey, 188-unit seniors development at 622 Admirals Rd. in Esquimalt. It would include rooms for residents with dementia, rental suites, and condominiums. Amenities include a top floor dining area, a lounge, games rooms, and tea room.

Construction has started on the Tapestry, a seniors complex being developed by Concert Properties, at 701 Belleville St. It will have 131 rental units plus 42 condominiums. Its amenities include a commercial kitchen with a restaurant, fitness centre and bistro-pub.

The $86-million Summit, a 320-unit seniors facility on Hillside Avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2019. It will replace Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Lodge and offer complex residential and dementia care.

• For Island Health information on residential care go to: viha.ca/hcc/residential

• For information on dementia: viha.ca/seniors/dementia.html

• The Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s help line is: 1-800-936-6033.

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