Legion in Esquimalt packs up, returning after 12-storey seniors project is built

The Esquimalt Dockyard branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, with a legal dispute settled, has closed its doors after 46 years at 622 Admirals Rd. to make way for construction of a new home within a 12-storey seniors development.

Avenir Senior Living is the majority partner in a planned 188-unit building on the same site. A 5,000-square-foot Legion branch, discounted rental units for military veterans, and commercial space on the ground floor are planned as well.

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If all goes smoothly, construction will start in spring 2019 and wrap in 18 to 20 months, said Jason Craik, an Avenir principal. “It is going to be beautiful.”

Avenir is going to the Township of Esquimalt seeking approval for an altered housing agreement because it wants to put in condominiums and offer a range of care.

Some units would be available for veterans to rent at a discounted rate of at least 10 per cent, Craik said. Details are being worked out.

Previous plans, under a different agreement, would have seen the branch own 10 veterans units.

A seven-hour farewell dance wrapped up operations at the branch on Saturday.

“There were lots of tears,” said branch manager Doug Grant, who retires today. “There was happiness as well. There was happiness that in three years, we are going to continue on with our Legion. That was the good part.”

The branch has about 700 members, he said. Mementos will be displayed temporarily at CFB Esquimalt and trophies are being returned to sports groups. A room in a base mess will be used for the annual poppy campaign, he said.

Founded in 1944, the branch was in two other locations prior to moving into the Admirals Road building in 1972, Grant said. But the large building needed repairs, was costly to maintain and the branch was losing money.

That is when the branch signed up with developer Monimos, which was going to put up a seniors high-rise and include the branch’s new space.

But the arrangement foundered over disputes about money and responsibilities. The parties went to arbitration and then into the Supreme Court of B.C. After Avenir stepped in, court cases were discontinued.

The branch’s debt has been eliminated thanks to Avenir, Grant said.

It paid off the $1.5-million mortgage and provided about $100,000 to pay back branch members who had lent funds to keep the branch running and the staff paid, Grant said.

He is relieved that years of uncertainty have come to an end, saying he had “many, many, many sleepless nights trying to get through this.”

Avenir is the majority partner leading the project and Monimos holds a minority interest, Craik said.

The project’s ground floor is to house the Legion branch, a 60-seat theatre, and two commercial spaces. Its 12th floor is being designed to house a commercial kitchen supplying meals in a dining room, an outdoor patio with ocean views, a lounge, tea room, and rooms for playing cards and sports.

The second and third floors will have 48 rooms for residents with dementia, Craik said. The fourth to ninth floors will have 108 rental suites with one and two bedrooms, and the 10th and 11th floors will hold 32 condominiums, with one and two bedrooms. The property’s title has a charge on it to guarantee the Legion branch will get its space, he said.

Family-owned Avenir, with a Brentwood Bay office, has spent 20 years developing seniors care facilities with independent and assisted living, and more recently care for people with dementia, in the Lower Mainland, Nanaimo and the U.S.

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