Construction of $88M seniors centre to start this summer on Songhees

The company behind an $88-million seniors development is hoping to have construction start this summer after receiving a development permit this week.

With the City of Victoria’s blessing, Vancouver-based Element Lifestyle Retirement is preparing to charge ahead with a five-storey, 153,000 square foot complex at the 20-acre Bayview Place site on Songhees.

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Candy Ho, director and vice- president of Element, said the project, named Aquara, is intended to be a community where people across generations can thrive together.

The idea is for seniors to be able to “age in place” by offering the chance for a transition for older adults from independence to assisted living to complex care. The inter-generational model hopes to attract older adults who are still working and providing for their children while being able to help their retiring or aging parents.

The complex will feature 160 units, including 125 independent and supportive-living suites available for purchase or for rent, and 35 units providing licensed care with its own tailored amenities and activities. The facility will feature 30,000 square feet of indoor and additional outdoor terrace, patios and rooftop gardens.

The project is being built below Bayview One, the first tower constructed on the site, and will have street access along Tyee Road and Kimta Road.

Ken Mariash, the founder of Focus Equities, which is the master developer of the site, has called Aquara “a critical element for this community.”

The cost of the project has increased by $13 million from the time it was first announced in the fall of 2017, when Element paid Focus Equities $6.7 million for the site.

Ho said the increased cost is due to the delays in getting city approval, increased construction costs and some changes and upgrades they made to the design.

“It was delayed a few months, but it’s okay as we never stopped our community engagement,” she said. “We have always said our approach is really to involve any prospective residents and their families to provide feedback into our amenities and programming.”

Element started a consultation program in June last year at the on-site “Aquara Discovery Centre” to refine the project’s proposed services and activities.

Ho expects most of the interest in the project will be from locals, though she said they have fielded calls from across Canada.

She expects they will start the sales process in three or four months when the paperwork has been done.

Final blasting and excavating at the site should be completed by early March.

Ho is hoping a building permit will be issued within the next six months.

The intention is to complete the project in 2021.

This spring, Element Lifestyle Retirement will finish the sold-out $106-million Opal retirement community in Vancouver, and has plans to build the $200 million Oasis in Langley.

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