The doors are now open to Nanaimo’s newest residential care facility.
Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence held its grand opening on Thursday with local dignitaries and residents celebrating the construction of the 136-bed, $27.4-million care facility.
Construction started on the Eleventh Street building in 2015 to replace Malaspina Gardens, a more than 100-year-old building and Chartwell’s oldest site. It was outdated and no longer provided an ideal environment for residents based on modern standards of residential care, according to Island Health, which will provide $8.5-million in annual operating funding to Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence.
There are 133 publicly subsidized residential care beds and three private-pay.
Island Health Board chairman Don Hubbard called it a fabulous facility and a fabulous addition to the beds in the Nanaimo and central Island area.
“I don’t like to be comparative but that building was past its best-before date,” he said of the Malaspina Gardens on Machleary Street.
Mayor Bill McKay, who spoke at the grand opening, said when someone makes a $30-million investment in a facility like this, it’s a big deal to a community like Nanaimo.
“It shows that Chartwell has the confidence in the community and that it’s a place where their investment is welcome,” he said. “They could go almost anywhere but they chose to remain in Nanaimo and make this continuing, ongoing investment and I tell you, it has to happen because of what’s happening in our demographics.
“Seniors, which I am one now, are going to need the community’s help, they are going to need good care as they age and facilities like this are what’s going to make that possible.”
Brent Binions, president and chief executive officer of Chartwell Retirement Residences said any who saw the old building would best understand the massive improvement in quality of life there is for residents and staff.
“We have 190 locations across Canada in Chartwell and we didn’t have a building that was less appropriate for seniors in our entire portfolio than that old building,” he said. “It just didn’t allow the comfort and the care levels and the safety levels of a modern workplace that our residents deserve and our employees deserve.”
Residents have already moved into the building, which has activity and dining space, courtyard, hairdressing room and meeting areas for families.
Malaspina Gardens had been one of Nanaimo’s original hospitals and is on the community heritage register. It will be demolished, which Binions said will happen as soon as possible, and the property will be sold. A city report says the owner is struggling with break-ins and thefts from the vacant property. It also said staff members have spoken with the owners about conservation and there’s a willingness to consider conserving small portions of the building, like its cornerstone and concrete lamp posts for later historical interpretation on the site.