Big seniors development in works for Dysart
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | September 27, 2018|
Although the sale isn’t finalized, Gardens Retirement Developments Inc. told Dysart councillors this past Monday they hope to build a seniors residence at 1 Sunnyside St. in Haliburton, site of the old Fleming College building.
The land and building have been on the market since plans fell through for an 83-unit condominium facing Head Lake that was to be called One Sunnyside. It was also once planned as the Bluewater condominium, and Watercolours before that, but all of those developments fizzled out.
Bill Mardimae and his son, Phil, came to the council meeting with images of a Gardens of Parry Sound Retirement Residence that has recently opened in that town. They also had drawings of the proposed site that is located just west of the village, along Highway 118, across the road from the Granite Cove condominium and overlooking Head Lake.
Mardimae said he found out about the Haliburton area this past spring and came to visit in early summer. He said he drove around with former Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC) general manager Andy Campbell looking at sites in Minden and Haliburton but his company “really honed in on Haliburton.” He said they looked at four or five available lots before deciding to make an offer on 1 Sunnyside.
“Haliburton seemed to fit the model,” he said.
Campbell is part of a volunteer committee of Dysart council, that also includes Mayor Murray Fearrey and Kent Milford, Harvey Bates and Mike Johnson. Fearrey said HCDC did two studies on behalf of the group and CAO Tamara Wilbee, in the hopes of attracting seniors housing to Dysart et al. He said the volunteer committee had visited a seniors residence in Prince Edward County.
Fearrey told The Highlander in phone interview after the meeting that the committee had been endorsed by council and updates presented at economic development committee meetings.
“It was done very transparently,” Fearrey said.
During the council meeting, Fearrey said it might be looked at by some as a political opportunity for him in the lead up to the Oct. 22 election, however, he only met with Mardimae for the first time on July 18, along with Milford, and the two tried to encourage the owner-developer that Haliburton was a good place to do business. Mardimae emphasized the commercial development is in its early stages, with the sale of the property still conditional. He said they hoped to do soil testing in two weeks, which will determine actual placement of the building on the property. After that, they will be able to prepare preliminary drawings for the township. The current owners are also seeking some minor variances at committee of adjustment.
These deal with size of units, number of parking spaces and loading spaces. It will be a multi-million-dollar development, four storeys in height and 75,000 square feet. They’ll begin with 74 units in phase one and eventually hope to build 120. Town planner Sue Harrison emphasized to council that there are still details to be worked out and studies to be done.
“We have lots of work to do.” But, she said the Parry Sound residence had been very well received and said a similar Haliburton building “will enable more seniors to age in place … and stay in Haliburton as they age.”
“We do smaller retirement homes in smaller communities,” Mardimae told council. “Our heart is more in small buildings.”
Mardimae said the average age of their residents is 86 and they offer both independent and assisted living. He estimated it would require 30 full and part-time staff to operate, including a manager, director of nursing, dietician, housekeeping, maintenance and recreation personnel. People would basically rent either a bed-sitting or onebedroom unit, that can range in size from 400-600 square feet, with a threepiece bathroom, some with kitchenettes. However, they can have a package that includes three meals a day.
The residents also have things such as a dining room, restaurant, theatre, chapel and shuttle bus. Mardimae termed it “the life of a prince or princess.”
Asked by Coun. Dennis Casey what the cost would be, Mardimae said they didn’t have a number yet but estimated $3,000 to $5,000-a-month. Fearrey said it sounds like a lot of money but people have to realize it is an all-inclusive price. Fearrey said if the development goes ahead, it means that more than 70 people are going to sell their homes in Haliburton and move into the retirement suites, which will free up housing stock for young families, creating “a whole different dynamic in the community.”
He added he hoped the Mardimaes would use local contractors and resources to create further jobs. “I’m really excited about this. It’s good news. I hope nobody sees it as bad news.”
Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts said it was exciting, with a property ready and waiting for development, when “we know this is a need in our community.”
Campbell, who attended the meeting with other members of the volunteer committee and representatives of CARP and the Ageing Well committee, said seniors housing was in everybody’s strategic plan and he was excited about working with the Mardimaes. Mardimae said they hope to begin construction in the spring.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.