A $50-million Berwick seniors residence and assisted-living project planned for Parksville has been cancelled.
Berwick Retirement Communities announced June 10 that the seniors facility, that would have housed approximately 250 seniors, staffed 150 employees and would include a daycare, will no longer go ahead at 180 Jensen Ave. East, because of its close proximity to Orca Place—the BC Housing supportive housing facility at 222 Corfield St.
“Through our experience, looking at other (supportive housing) projects of a similar nature, it has an effect on the surrounding neighbourhood, and typically the neighbourhood has some challenges that are not conducive to seniors or children,” said Berwick president and CEO Chris Denford.
Denford said Berwick is disappointed with the cancellation of the project but that it was a necessary decision.
“We put a lot of time and effort into this. Leading up to receiving our development permit we spent a lot of money on our plan and invested a lot of time and energy in that community,” Denford said. “When we were about ready to receive our building permit, to get the news that that project was going across the street from us was pretty devastating. Although we invested a considerable amount of money to this date, it’s a $52-million project… to invest the rest of it with the situation in that city would have been a pretty significant mistake.”
Denford said the cancellation of the seniors facility is a “huge lost opportunity” for the City of Parksville.
“Although we hadn’t finalized our staffing model, it’s around 150 jobs on an ongoing basis and it would also have provided an important form of housing for the seniors that they don’t currently have in that community,” Denford said.
Gordon Denford, Berwick owner, said the Parksville mayor and council excluded Berwick from participation in negotiations with BC Housing and the Regional District of Nanaimo in regards to the supportive housing project.
“We wanted to be part of the negotiations with BC Housing and the regional district to mitigate the risk and to have the supportive housing modified or relocated,” he said. “It wasn’t that we were against the supportive housing, we were actually supportive, but it was a very bad decision to place it on Corfield. It would put the seniors and our employees and the daycare centre at risk.”
At this time, Berwick is not considering another location in Parksville for the seniors facility.
“I can’t divulge which communities but we’re already looking outside [Parksville] at other places because we really enjoy what we do and if Parksville doesn’t want us, we’re happy to go somewhere where we will be well-received,” Denford said.
Parksville mayor Ed Mayne while he was disappointed to hear the news, the cancellation announcement didn’t come as a huge surprise to him, as Berwick told council back in October they had plans to cancel the project.
“We would have loved to have seen Berwick here,” Mayne said. “We did everything we could when this council and myself were running for election. When we got [elected] we said that this was going to be a hard fight of which there was very little likelihood that we would accomplish totally eliminating the (supportive) housing from [Corfield]. The councillors that were negotiating this deal did an amazing job getting what they got. There’s nothing more we could have done, we came in with our hands tied.”
Mayne said in terms of not including Berwick in negotiations, the community charter requires any discussions pertaining to legal or land to be held in-camera.
“There’s no way Berwick would have been involved in any of the discussion when we were [in-camera],” Mayne said. “Secondly, this was a direct negotiation between us and BC Housing and the Regional District of Nanaimo.”