A development proposal in Port Moody for an upscale seniors housing facility with a 15-storey tower will likely not get anywhere near all 15 storeys.
Council was unanimous in their acknowledgement of the city’s need for seniors housing, but also unanimous in their rejection of the proposed tower height.
“We’re going to need to look at a lower density, and see how we can make that happen. But I absolutely encourage the proponent to come back with something,” said Mayor Meghan Lahti. “I think that this is a type of housing that we desperately need. . . . We have none of it.”
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The application from Avenir Senior Living was before council for early input on July 18. They are proposing an amendment to the official community plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws to increase the density of the building.
Dubbed the Kyle Senior Living Centre, the project would combine five parcels (41,441 sq. ft.) on the 2500 block of St. George St., just east of Kyle Park and Kyle Centre.
The 15-storey tower would sit on western portion of the building, on top of a five to six-storey podium.
A total of 194 residential units are proposed: 46 privately owned condominium units in the tower, 100 full-service independent/assisted living rental units, and 48 community care/memory care units. Approximately 88 staff would be employed at the facility.
Though the city’s land use committee (LUC) did throw tentative support behind the project, both the LUC, advisory design panel and city staff voiced serious concerns over the building’s height, density, massing and location.
The site’s current zoning only permits a height of three storeys. The property is surrounded by a low-density single family neighbourhood.
Its density far exceeds any existing or proposed development in Port Moody, according to the staff report.
Jason Craik, principal of Avenir Senior Living, said the density is so high because of the amount of amenities being offered, which include an outdoor and roof garden, indoor and outdoor dining, both a piano and sports lounge, a bistro, library, theatre, salon and health and wellness area.
He said the facility would offer a continuum of care for residents, which is becoming more rare due to complexities of operations and staffing.
“People are saying, ‘We’ve never seen that before.’ Well, you’re going to see more of it if senior housing comes in, because we’re not just providing a condo tower or rental tower,” Craik said.
He noted that in the next 20 years, Canada’s seniors population is projected to grow by 68 percent, and the age group over 75-years-old will double.
Staff said that while the city needs seniors housing, the project would be a significant change to what the city envisions for the area.
They noted that seniors housing is especially needed for tenants at lower-to-moderate income levels near transit, and Avenir’s proposal appears to be geared towards moderate-to-high income levels.
Couns. Amy Lubik and Haven Lurbiecki both said the city should be focusing on providing seniors housing to lower income tenants.
While both councillors said a housing facility for wealthier seniors could work somewhere else in the city, the proposed location was not right.
Lubik encouraged the applicant to seek some form of housing partnership to bring down costs for potential residents.
“When we look at our housing needs report, it’s the lower income seniors that are our highest priority from an equity point of view,” Lubik said. “Adding high end housing in this place is not going to meet our needs.”
Lurbiecki said if the applicant were to come back with a proposal for a shorter building that was a better fit within the community, she would be more supportive.
The rest of council, however, said that although lower-to-moderate income housing for seniors is highlighted in the city’s broader strategy, a broad spectrum of seniors housing is also needed.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said she knows a dozen local residents who were disappointed to have to leave Port Moody when they needed to move into a seniors facility.
She added that many seniors are sitting in very large properties waiting to downsize and find upscale facilities.
“There is a spectrum . . . and it goes from those that need critical care and support, to those that just want to live in a really nice senior place where they can access supportive services,” Dilworth said. “Do we do this at the expense of publicly abundant, affordable seniors housing? Absolutely not.”
Lahti agreed, stating this type of housing would be very welcome in Port Moody, even if lower-income units are needed too. “It doesn’t mean you say no to something because we need something else,” Lahti said.
Coun. Kyla Knowes said her own grandmother lived in one of the applicant’s other facilities before she died in 2015, and was paying $5,000 a month.
She said although prices have gone up, she didn’t find the proposed costs of the facility, “completely out to lunch.”
“That’s just the way of the market right now,” Knowles said.
Knowles, who chairs the LUC, pointed out that although the majority of the LUC were against the proposed height, both seniors on the committee approved of the location.
“I think there are opportunities here for the applicant and the architect to rejig this in a not-so controversial way,” Knowles said.
Coun. Samantha Agtarap and Lubik also voiced concern about the level of traffic that would be added to the St. George Street, which the city has envisioned as a future active transportation corridor.