CANMORE – Phase two of the Bow River Senior's Lodge This is Home project is officially under construction.
The Bow Valley Regional Housing (BVRH) facility expansion to create 60 new units for the lodge has been in the works for a decade. Board vice-chair Lisa Rosvold said the project will allow seniors in the valley to stay close to friends and family as they age and require more supports.
"The most significant part of this is enabling our Bow Valley seniors to stay in the valley during their most vulnerable years," Rosvold said. "Through my role with Bow Valley Regional Housing, and my experience of having a mother diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I understand the importance and significance of keeping our loved ones cared safe, cared for and close to home."
The lodge and its residents have been living under COVID-19 restrictions since mid-March and executive director Ian Wilson said thanks to the hard work and due diligence in the community and from staff, there has been no cases so far at the facility.
Phase two of This is Home is an $16.9 million project to construct a new building at the lodge specifically to provide designated supportive living for seniors with more complex needs.
It includes 30 suites of secure accommodation built for seniors experiencing memory or dementia issues and 30 units of designated supportive living.
BVRH board member and Canmore Coun. Joanna McCallum said having secure accommodation for seniors facing memory loss or dementia issues will create peace of mind "that our loved ones will be safe, cared for and in the community.
"I have been a champion of this project for the past eight years and I am so thrilled the seniors of Canmore will finally be able to access this level of care in the Bow Valley," McCallum said.
"This project not only increases capacity, but bridges the gap between what we can currently provide at the Bow River Seniors Lodge and what is available in long-term care at the Canmore and Banff hospitals."
A housing needs analysis conducted by BVRH in 2018 identified a lack of spaces in the Bow Valley for these two specific types of seniors housing, which require increased supports like 24-hour on-call nursing.
“It is very important that we support seniors to remain in their communities, close to family and friends," said Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon.
"By providing greater care as their medical needs increase, many seniors will be able to remain in their community. Alberta’s government is proud to support more housing and seniors care in the Canmore community.”
Phase one of This is Home was completed in 2017. It cost $15.7 million and provided 63 units for the Bow River Lodge, replacing 43 units that were subsequently demolished and 20 additional units of seniors housing for the community.
Phase two is estimated to cost $16.9 million, with the provincial government providing $16 million and BVRH covering the difference. The regional housing commission is able to requisition funding from its member municipalities through property taxes if needed.
The project, which is being built by the provincial government, is not bound by municipal bylaws. Instead of going through a development permit process at the end of 2019, the project went straight to building permit approval with the development authority.
With a new Alberta Building Code coming into effect on Dec. 1, 2019 – by obtaining approvals for the project beforehand, it avoided significant increases to construction costs that would result from the new code and could have derailed the project altogether.
BVRH, a regional housing body that provides community and seniors housing for all municipalities of the Bow Valley, appoints members to its board each year. The board reports to the province and has the power to requisition property taxes in each of its five member municipalities.
In addition to its two seniors lodges – Bow River Lodge in Canmore and Cascade House in Banff – BVRH operates independent seniors apartments, community housing and the provincial rent supplement program.