New seniors care facility breaks ground in south Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Malaspina Gardens will be closed and demolished once the new facility opens.

A $27.4-million residential care project broke ground in south Nanaimo last week.

Chartwell Seniors’ Housing began excavation for the new Malaspina Care Centre on Twelfth Street, with a development permit and rezoning now in place.

Council also agreed to relax rules for the company Monday, nixing the requirement for the company to do frontage works and services along Twelfth Street, including street lighting and storm drainage. Instead, future costs will fall to the City of Nanaimo.

Upgrades along Twelfth Street would have made roadwork a horrendous cost at approximately $1.2 million, according to project manager Randy Regier, who said Chartwell has agreed it’s fair to build a new Eleventh Street and do upgrades on Lawlor Road and Junction Avenue, also bordering the development. It also expects to pay more than $300,000 annually in taxes.

The majority of councillors supported a development variance permit because of the taxes the development will eventually pay and the need for the facility. Coun. Bill Yoachim called himself a champion of the project and said more important than numbers is a duty to look after an aging demographic, while Coun. Wendy Pratt said the development is something the city desperately needs.

The 136-bed care facility will replace Malaspina Gardens in the city’s former Machleary Street hospital, considered Chartwell’s oldest site in Canada. It will also include additions the company doesn’t offer in its current home, including licenced dementia care and three private-pay beds.

Once residents are moved from the old centre, the Machleary site will be sold and the building possibly demolished and decanted, according to Sharon Henderson, vice-president of communications for Chartwell, who said in an e-mail the current structure and physical plant are outdated and no longer functional for future use.

“Right now the focus will be on the new site and then those decisions will be made after we know we’ve fully moved in and everything is in place,” said Henderson.

Chris Sholberg, city culture and heritage planner, hopes to speak to the owners about options for Malaspina Gardens. The old hospital, built in 1925, is historically significant and in the city’s community heritage register, although it has no protected status.

Construction on the new care centre is expected to take 18 months and create 55 on-site jobs. A building permit has been applied for and discussions have begun with residents about a move to the new facility.

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