ST. PAUL - The needs and wants of the community were expressed during a series of public consultations held on Sept. 12 regarding a large long-term care housing project that would ultimately replace Sunnyside Manor and some other nearby senior housing.
About 30 people took part in the first of three public engagement sessions on Tuesday afternoon in St. Paul. Two other engagement sessions were scheduled to take place that same day.
Brigitte Sakaluk welcomed the crowd to Reunion Station, speaking briefly about the project and introducing several people who would be involved in the large-scale project, which in previous talks has been estimated at about $50 million.
The building will include 90 units, confirmed Joe Tkalcic with TBD Architecture + Urban Planning.
"The intention we have for this engagement session is really to get some feedback on the ideas of the kinds of things that you would wish to see in a facility that we're going to design," said Tkalcic. Every community has different needs, he acknowledged.
Seniors living in the lodge and staff working in the lodge have already been engaged.
"It's important to get all those perspectives," said Tkalcic.
Offering a diagram that showed the current site, Tkalcic explained that the current Heritage Homes cottages would be demolished to create a new building, while Sunnyside Manor would be left during construction and linked to the new facility. People would be moved from Sunnyside as construction is complete. Then, the current Sunnyside Manor building would come down as construction wraps up and that area would turn into green space for the new facility.
Sakaluk affirmed during discussions that the MD Foundation would assist in finding accommodations for current residents of the Heritage Homes cottages. She also noted that some of the cottages are already empty due to needing repairs, and they will not be filled due to the proposed project.
"As this building evolves, what we're trying to do now is to develop a series of schematic site plans and building plans so that we can get some budgeting done and submit for a grant," said Tkalcic. The next deadline to submit a grant to the Affordable Housing Partnership Program is Oct. 16, in order to obtain funding from the province. The results of that grant would be known in the New Year.
The newly built units would meet all current building and safety codes and would be highly accessible. Amenity spaces are much more accommodating than what currently exists in St. Paul and will include accessible showers, wider hallways, for example.
The project costs would likely be split three ways, with local municipalities paying for a third, the provincial government paying a third, and the federal government paying a third, once grants are successfully accessed.
The MD Foundation also knows there there will be an increased need for more units in the future, so the new lodge will be built with that in mind. "This site will become significantly denser with the number of units on it," said Tkalcic.
The current age for residents in Sunnyside manor if 88 years old, heard those in attendance. Tkalcic said that with a new facility and more amenities, that age can sometimes drop with younger people moving into the facility.
"What we're finding is everybody is really interested in outdoor space," said Tkalcic, as he spoke with attendees. Residents are often leaving backyards when they move to a long-term care facility, and there are different options available. Spaces can be a bit more organic or manicured. Sometimes, residents also request outdoor spaces where they can have family visit, or a space to get together with other residents.
One of the questions Tkalcic says he likes to ask when doing these projects is: "Why would you not move eo a seniors facility? What things are preventing you from moving here? and it's interesting some of the things we hear."
For some, they're hesitant to move because they have a pet, and for others it's because they want family to be able to continue to come visit. So, perhaps there can be a playground and activities available for seniors to do with their family when they come visit, in the outdoor space, "so you're not confined to your suite," said Tkalcic.
Security at the outdoor spaces was also mentioned during discussions. And since there is a playground already across the street at the nearby St. Paul Elementary School, there are also options for adult equipment to be installed if a children's playground isn't needed.
The floor was open to those in attendance to also offer recommendations and feedback. Residents mentioned outdoor benches, a small walking trail, elevated toilets, and larger windows. More available parking was also discussed for both residents and visitors. A community kitchen, a indoor games room, activity rooms, and more were also brought up during the first engagement session.
The first step of the project was a study for the catchment area. In January of 2023, information from the study was presented to a joint municipality meeting.
The study showed that demand for long-term care housing in the St. Paul and Elk Point area will increase, like it will across the province, but the current population distribution by makeup is much higher than the provincial average.
"That means we have 50 per cent more seniors on average in our communities than there is in the province," said Sakaluk on Sept. 12. Currently, supportive housing is "adequate or barely adequate" in St. Paul, and is going to diminish over time. The demand in the area will not be met by private housing, added Sakaluk.
"Aging in community means having the help and social supports needed to live safety and independently in your home or community as long as you wish or are able," said Sakaluk. She added that making choices ahead of time, will give residents of the community greater control over their independence.