Seniors’ housing planned for Nelson’s Vernon St.

Kelowna company has purchased a lot that has been empty for more than a century

The proposed seniors’ housing development would be four storeys in height from its Vernon St. entrance. The presentation to council was for information only and council made no decisions about it. Illustration courtesy of Vendure Retirement Communities

A Kelowna company intends to build a 127-unit seniors’ housing complex at 611 Vernon St. That’s the large empty lot across the street from the Adventure Hotel, currently used for private parking.

Joseph Schlacter of Vendure Retirement Communities presented the concept, which includes an assisted living component and a variety of amenities, to Nelson city council on Monday.

“It will be almost like an all-inclusive resort,” he said.

The development would be a private business with no government funding. Its assisted living services would be regulated by the provincial government and the BC Seniors Living Association. The facility would be managed by Advocare Health Services of Kelowna although Vendure would remain the owner.

Residents would lease their premises from the company and the services would include dining hall and meal services, a private family dining room, laundry, theatre and games room, chapel, gym, bistro, billiards room, rooftop gardens, exterior courtyards with games, offsite shuttle service, crafts room, workshop, library, and therapy room.

In addition, the company will employ nurses and other staff to provide, for a fee, individualized assisted living services to residents who need it including medication management, daily living assistance (e.g. dressing and bathing), dietary specializations, and “behavioural/psycho-social” assistance.

“We are forecasting our lease rates for one and two bedroom units to fall in the range of $2,000 to $3,500 per month,” Schlacter wrote in an email to the Star, “varying on size, location and number of residents within the suite. Our assisted living fees are based on the residents’ specific needs, therefore will vary and be determined accordingly.”

He told council a feasibility study has pointed to Nelson as “a thriving community with a need for seniors housing” and as one where local seniors would not want to move to another community for housing.

“We worked with a local realtor,” said Schlacter, “researched the market, and chose this property because it jumped out at us right away.”

Schlacter’s presentation was for council’s information only. Council made no decisions on Monday about the project.

The six-storey building would rise four floors above Vernon St. with two storeys below the street, the lowest being a parking level. The alley side of the building will also include some public parking. Commercial space is planned for the Vernon St. level, probably medically-related businesses such as doctors or therapists.

Current zoning allows for a 16-metre high building in that location, and Schlacter said the Vernon St. side of the building will be less than that, but the north side will be 18.5 metres because the lot drops so far below street level, and he plans to apply to the city for a height variance.

Vendure currently runs a seniors housing facility in Salmon Arm and is developing another in Prince George.

Schlacter said there is no formal minimum age for the facility but in Salmon Arm it is 80.

“People are living longer, they have more healthy lifestyles, are more active and we will promote that in our facilities. An 80 year old in our facilities would be a fairly active person.”

He said six units will be two-bedroom and others one-bedroom. It has not been decided if there will be full kitchens in all units. There will be exterior courtyards including one on the roof, and the company is looking into the possibilities of solar panels and Kootenay Carshare involvement.

“We want something that will fit with the community, not a big institutional eyesore,” he told council. “These are the residents’ homes and we want them to be proud of where they live. Much of the problems that come with seniors housing is that they are institutional, depressing, and not places seniors can thrive in.”

Local historian Greg Nesteroff told the Star the lot has always been empty.

“There has never been a building there to my knowledge, although there have been several proposals over the years to build a hotel. Photos of the area from 1899 show a few buildings on either side of that lot, but it looked as empty then as it does now.”

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The vacant lot at 611 Vernon, shown here with the Salvation Army building in the background, has been empty for more than century. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The back of the building would be six storeys high. Illustration courtesy of Vendure Retirement Communities

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