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Nigel House replacement project has residents keeping a close eye

The existing two-storey Nigel House building will give way to a six-storey complex.
Resident Wendy Hamer has been watching construction of the new, expanded Nigel House being built next door to the current facility. “I asked for a penthouse,” she says. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

After close to five years at Nigel House, a Saanich facility for people needing complex care, Wendy Hamer can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The 58-year-old has DiGeorge syndrome, a rare, congenital condition that causes such issues as heart defects and learning difficulties, and says Nigel House has truly become her home.

One of her two daughters has the condition, too.

Like the other 25 residents, Hamer pays close to attention to the new, expanded Nigel House being built next door — complete with private rooms and bathrooms for residents, and much more room for day-to-day activities.

She has her own ideas about where she’d like to be in the new building. “I asked for a penthouse,” she said with a laugh.

Hamer said she often sits by a window near the dining room to watch the construction workers in action at the site, located off Vernon Avenue between Saanich Road and Ravine Way.

“I know every step they make,” she said.

One thing in particular she is looking forward to in the new place is the communal living room, complete with a fireplace and fish tank, where she can relax and knit.

“I’ve made over 100 tuques in the last few years,” she said. “It keeps my hands busy.”

The condition that brought her to Nigel House really began to affect her later in life, Hamer said. She had a job and an apartment, but started having seizures and other symptoms.

Nigel House residents, who range in age from 23 to 74, have a wide range of health situations and physical and mental challenges that make specialized care a necessity.

“It’s a unique population in that they can’t live at home, they can’t work, they require support every single day,” said Mandy Parker, vice-president of philanthropy and communication for the Broadmead Care Society, which runs Nigel House.

Some also need help with feeding or getting out of bed, she said.

The public has already shown a great deal of support for the replacement project, as seen in the completion of the $3-million New Home for Nigel House Campaign, said Parker.

“Now we’re raising money for furnishings, fixtures and equipment, and that’s about $1.4 million.”

The existing two-storey Nigel House building will give way to a six-storey complex. Ground-breaking was in October 2021.

All told, there will be room for 41 people needing complex care, 37 assisted-living units and 10 units of affordable housing in what Broadmead Care Society chief executive Derrick Bernardo calls a “beautiful, sustainable, integrated community.”

The society has been working toward replacing Nigel House for several years. It was built in the 1970s, and even updates made in the 1990s are now out of date, the society said.

Problems are numerous, like narrow hallways and small elevators that can’t accommodate wheelchairs, and a lack of personal space.

With major repairs on the horizon, it was decided that renovation was not an option. 

“We’re looking for occupancy in April of 2025,” Parker said. “The construction is coming along really well. As of a couple of weeks ago they were working on the second floor, so it is coming out of the ground nicely.”

The fact that Hamer and the other residents enjoy watching the building go up shows how much it means to them, she said.

“They’re super-excited about getting into their new home.”

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