Seniors housing project underway

In 17 months, there will be 173 shiny new units in a seniors housing complex in the middle of Prince George.

Among those units in the RiverBend Seniors Community, located at the corner of Oak Street and 20th Avenue, there will be 67 units designated especially for low-income seniors, with the rest offering finely appointed condominiums.

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Between the wing dedicated to the low-income housing and the condos, there will be a common area featuring a theatre room, fitness centre, recreation room, spa and hair salon and dining room that offers a community-style facility that can be accessed by all.

The combination of the market housing and the low-income housing component within the same complex is seamless, said Frank Quinn of A&T Ventures, the developer of RiverBend.

The idea for the complex was sparked about seven years ago when the City of Kamloops approached Jeff Arnold and Frank Quinn of A&T Ventures about creating a complex because of the lack of seniors housing available.

To make a facility viable, there has to be a strong marketable component that will support the low-income side of a complex, said Quinn.

"It's a kind of a symbiotic facility - we build the low-rent housing at cost, all the common areas at our own expense, and we build market housing next to it or attached to it," said Quinn about the RiverBend Seniors Community in Kamloops. "So the vision, which came about, was a beautiful building consisting of 166 units, 66 of which are low-rent seniors' housing and the balance is market housing. Combined with that is about 20,000 square feet of beautiful common facilities that feels like a nice four-star hotel."

Quinn said they realized this kind of facility was a home run. Because of its success A&T Ventures built another complex right beside the original which is also at capacity and also a success, he added.

"It's become the centre for seniors' activities, not just for social activity but also for advocacy - all the town hall meetings are held there," said Quinn. "So we looked at Prince George and we're taking that very same model and producing it here."

Oncore Seniors Society, a partner in the Prince George complex and the two developments in Kamloops, came into existence when the Kamloops and District Seniors Outreach Society and the River City Seniors Society amalgamated in 2013.

"We've had a very good relationship with Oncore Seniors Society and they're coming from Kamloops to own, operate and manage the facility and the great thing about having a non-profit manage a seniors' facility is they are not looking for profit, they're all about the quality of services," said Quinn.

"B.C. Housing provided funding and acquired some of the low-rental housing to make the society viable and we've never looked back. We're in the ground in Prince George and we're going to be finished in 17 months with full occupancy."

Oncore offers assistance to all residents of the complex who can then age in place with a little help. The society offers services like cleaning, laundry and meal service at low rates

Several years ago, A&T Ventures made a presentation to city council proposing the RiverBend Seniors Community housing but despite interest shown during the presentation when Quinn followed up he found there was no real interest in the project.

That all changed when Mayor Lyn Hall called Quinn three years ago to ask him to revisit the project.

"Prince George has been fantastic to deal with," said Quinn. "We do work in Kamloops, Sun Peaks, West Kelowna and various communities and this city has been far and away the most cooperative to deal with. Lots of great energy at that city office."

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