Potential future of East View Lodge site presented

NEWS

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson / THE NEEPAWA BANNER
January 2014

On Tuesday, close to 80 Neepawa area residents came to listen to a presentation regarding the redevelopment of the former East View Lodge site in Neepawa. The proposed project will see the construction of approximately 50 units of seniors housing on the site.

Following the demolition and clean up of the East View Lodge site last summer, the provincial government agreed to turn the site over to the Town of Neepawa to be used for a community project. The Neepawa area development corporation, NADCO 2013 Inc., has been tasked with overseeing the redevelopment of the site. The NADCO board is made up of council members from the Town of Neepawa and the rural municipalities of Langford, Lansdowne and Rosedale.

NADCO seeking funding from Manitoba Housing

At the two public meetings on Jan. 29 -- one in the afternoon and one in the evening -- NADCO updated residents about the project's progress. NADCO chair Wayne Hildebrand called the project an exciting opportunity. "It's an outstanding site… the opportunities are there," he said.

The project is expected to cost about $10.2 million and NADCO is aiming to access a grant from Manitoba Housing. Manitoba Housing won't provide all of the funding for a project, but based on other projects, Hildebrand said that they are expecting about $3 million from the province. Approximately $1 million will be raised locally and the remainder will be borrowed.

Manitoba Housing releases grants for various types of housing and this year, they will be funding seniors' housing. The funding is to be announced by early February. In the announcement, the province will set out the requirements a project must meet in order to be eligible for funding. Once the funding is announced, NADCO will have a short timeline, up to two months, to prepare a proposal for the government.

In order to be ready with a proposal once the funding is announced, NADCO hired an architectural firm last fall to begin work on the project. A number of firms expressed interest in the project and Hildebrand said that the Winnipeg firm ft3 was chosen. He explained that ft3 has experience building this type of housing in Manitoba, including in rural areas. "We hired them because of their professionalism and experience," he said.

Preliminary work will guide design

Martin Duhoux, a principal with ft3 and the architect working on the project, was on hand at the meetings to explain some of the preliminary work already, as well as the future timeline.

Starting last December, ft3 and NADCO began preliminary work to understand the community's needs when it comes to seniors housing and what they want and expect from a new housing project. This was done with consultations, a workshop as well as the distribution of surveys, which are still available through area municipal offices. "We wanted to be ahead of the game, prepared," said Duhoux.

The preliminary work has focused on determining what the community wants, including the mix of one and two bedroom units as well as the level of service to be provided to residents. Community support for the project and plan will be an integral part of NADCO's submission to Manitoba Housing.

In December, a workshop was held with area residents. The workshop asked participants what they saw to be the image of the project. The responses showed that the community felt strongly that the site should be a landmark -- striking, iconic and majestic were words used. They also asked what the No. 1 priority for the project should be. The answers varied but included a focus on accessibility, low maintenance and the ability for the units to accommodate residents' changing lifestyles as they age. Duhoux said that those in attendance expressed the importance of maximizing the site's views and connecting it to the town.

The units are expected to be a mix of assisted living, which provides some level of meal service and housekeeping to residents who are fairly independent, and independent living.

Final proposal to be ready within the next two months

Duhoux stressed that it would not be a personal care home.

In addition to the level of service, another major question yet to be determined is the ownership structure of the project. Duhoux presented the three options: condominiums, rentals and life leases. Under a condominium structure, residents own their units, in a rental structure, residents rent their units and a life lease structure falls somewhere in between.

Incorporating some of the ideas from the workshop, Duhoux presented two rough concepts for a building on the site. It will likely be four floors with a north-south orientation, making use of the eastern view to the Whitemud River. In one proposal, the building had two staggered wings and in the second, the two wings were configured in a chevron shape.

The building will be located on the west of the site. Because there is so much slope, locating the building higher up on the property and closer to downtown will make it more connected to the rest of the town. The main parking area is likely to be located at the western edge of the property.

Because they are seeking support from Manitoba Housing, the units will be built to their guidelines, one of which is a modesty guideline. Duhoux said that they expect the one-bedroom units to be about 650 square feet and the two-bedroom units to be about 825 square feet. There will be one bathroom per suite. Some of the units will be completely handicapped accessible and others will be adaptable. The building is expected to be made of steel and concrete.

"It's a community housing issue." – NADCO chair Wayne Hildebrand

Per unit prices are unknown at this point because a design for the building and the unit mix hasn't yet been decided. Hildebrand said that once the survey results and other feedback have been analyzed, they will have a better idea of costs and prices.

Under a best case scenario, residents could be moving in late in the summer of2015.

As for why a senior's housing project in particular was chosen, Hildebrand explained, "NADCO came up with the idea that that was what was needed." He explained that the town's housing study indicated a large number of seniors living in smaller single family homes. Additionally, there are waiting lists at most of the town's other 55-plus residences. Hildebrand explained that making the smaller homes available will have a domino effect, opening up entry-level housing for younger residents. "It's a community housing issue," he said.

Adding to the desirability of a seniors housing project was the knowledge that the government would be providing funding specifically for seniors residences in 2014.

Potential ownership structures:

What will the building include? The preliminary work indicates that the new development will be: