Atikokan Progress – M. McKinnon – January 13, 2020
Community Living Atikokan has made some major revisions to its proposed senior housing project, changes which reflect public comments made during a meeting in October.
“What we heard at that meeting was that most people preferred a two-bedroom unit, that air conditioning was important, and that a central interior hallway – so people could visit friends without going outside – was also important,” Community Living Atikokan executive director Jim Turner told the inter-agency group Wednesday. “So we went back to the drawing board with the architects.”
The result is a very different project: one building with interior hallways and a central entrance. It’s bigger, too: thirty-eight units (versus thirty in the original two-building plan), with most (thirty-one) of the units having two bedrooms. The building will have central air conditioning, a back-up generator to maintain power in the event of a blackout, a central recreation area (lounge, dining room, covered patio), and a walking trail around the building with access from each unit (via the patio door).
Units are about the same size as in the original proposal (830 sq.ft. for the two-bedroom units, 670 for the one-bedroom). In an effort to increase storage space in each unit, the laundry facilities have been removed; the building will have a central laundry room. Each unit will have a small patio space, and will be fully accessible (i.e., wheelchair and walker friendly).
The changes also reflect some of what Turner and CLA board vice-chair Jason Young [CORRECTION: The original story identified him as board chair. Cliff Pointer is chair of the board.] found when they visited the retirement living complex in Marathon, a facility recently built by CVG Builders, the same company Community Living is working with here.
“The big thing we saw in Marathon was the social aspect… People living there told us this was one of the most important things about living there.”
The redesign was approved Wednesday by the CLA board, which agreed to go with the full thirty-eight unit proposal from CVG. Construction will cost $14.7 million. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation will fund the project (on favourable terms, per the National Housing Strategy), with CLA holding the mortgage.
The Town has agreed to donate the land for the project (the former row housing site, bounded by Willow Rd. and Elm Crescent), to waive most development charges, and to reduce property taxes during its first few years of operation.
“That support is key,” said Turner. “for it to back the project, CMHC wants to be certain it has strong community support.”
Community Living Atikokan will launch a fund-raising drive in a bid to raise $200,000, as another indication of the support the project enjoys in Atikokan. (All donations will be tax deductible.)
Turner said he expects the application will be submitted by the end of the month. CMHC has recently streamlined its approval process for this type of project, and it is conceivable CLA will get the go-ahead in time to start work this fall.
“It’s a bigger project, but with just one building, it should not take much longer than the nine months CVG was estimating [for the first proposal].”
Another public meeting will be held when CMHC gives its approval.
CLA will form a committee of its board to oversee the project as it moves forward. There are a lot of details still to be worked out: What will be the age requirement for residents? What will be the health criteria? (“This isn’t a long-term care facility or an assisted-living facility. Tenants will have to be able to evacuate themselves independently if there is an emergency.”)
Will renters have to sign a lease? How much will rent be? (Most of the units will be at market rent, about $1,200 per month. [CORRECTION: This was based on the original project; rents in this more expensive project will likely be a little higher.] But at least eleven will be designated as affordable housing. CMHC will determine what that rent will be, and who will qualify for it.)
“I hope we will have most of these answers available for people in time for the reunion in June,” said Turner.
Some details have already been decided. Out-buildings (sheds, etc.) and outdoor storage will not be allowed. The building will be pet friendly. Smoking will not be allowed anywhere inside the building.
CLA is exploring the possibility it could offer a range of services, for a fee, to support residents, everything from PSW to laundry and meal services.
“Our ultimate goal is to make living there comfortable for people.”