City of Victoria mulls plan for seniors’ rentals in Jubilee area

A proposal to replace a medical office building near Royal Jubilee Hospital with an assisted care facility will be considered by Victoria city councillors Thursday.

Milliken Real Estate Corp. wants to build 137 units of assisted living, memory care and independent living over ground-floor commercial in a five-storey building to be known as Maison Victoria Seniors at 1900-1912 Richmond Rd.

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Milliken has agreed to keep the units as rental in perpetuity and city staff are recommending the proposal be sent to public hearing.

“It’s good to see the number of units being proposed for a range of different care needs for seniors,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Purpose built rental in perpetuity is always welcome so I think it’s ready to go to public hearing,” Helps said.

“It fits with the Official Community Plan vision for that site. It’s five storeys, not six and it could be up to six.”

The care facility would replace an older four-storey medical building at the corner of Fort and Birch streets known for its Rod of Asclepius symbol fixed on the exterior facing Fort. An ancient symbol associated with medicine, it depicts a snake entwined on a rod.

Coun. Marianne Alto, council liaison to North Jubilee, notes there were some concerns in the neighbourhood about the project’s height and traffic it might generate but expects the conversation at the council table “will be quite balanced.”

“So there were some issues with some traffic but on the other hand I think the anticipation was that the traffic that’s there now with the medical building would actually be likely reduced with a more residential building,” Alto said.

The need for seniors’ facilities in Greater Victoria is pressing and growing, said architect Craig Abercrombie of Norr Architects, Engineers and Planners. “It’s no secret that the population, as a whole, is getting older. We are living longer, healthier lives. As a result, the demand for seniors housing, in all forms, is extremely high and getting worse every year,” Abercrombie said in a letter to councillors.

While the existing building has no heritage status, discussions with the North Jubilee Neighbourhood Association have indicated there is a desire to see the Rod of Asclepius symbol re-used, Abercrombie said. “While a final design and location is not yet determined, the applicant team is committed to re-use the signage in order to recognize the history of the site.”

The project would have 48 underground resident parking stalls, 14 visitor parking and three commercial stalls although it is expected most of the residents will not have vehicles. There would also be eight long-term and four short-term bicycle parking stalls.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s 2017 annual Seniors’ Housing Report, the overall vacancy rate for independent living residences across Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands was 3.8 per cent in 2017, compared with 4.0 per cent in 2016, which is lower than the provincial average (4.5 per cent in 2017 and 6.3 per cent in 2016).

According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, 21 per cent of Greater Victoria’s population is 65 years or older with an average age of 44.5 years.

By comparison, 11.3 per cent of Calgary’s population is 65 and older, with an average age or 37.6 years.

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.

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