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TBM releases vision and timeline for community campus of care

Project will include a 160-bed long-term care facility, with construction slated to begin in late 2023
2021_02_23 TBM Peel Street_JG
The 32-acre site at 125 Peel Street will include a 160-bed long-term care home, attainable housing for staff, and a number of potential additional features.

The Town of The Blue Mountains (TBM) has released its initial vision and construction timeline for its community campus of care project, which aims to establish a number of housing and care options for the town’s senior community.

The campus of care will be located on a 32-acre site at 125 Peel Street, and it will include a 160-bed long-term care facility, which was provisionally allocated to the town by the province in January as part of a $6.4 billion investment in long-term care across Ontario.

In February, TBM hired SHS Consulting to aid the town in developing a vision for the campus and source a developer to construct, own, and operate it.

“The Town of The Blue Mountains has, I believe, the highest proportion of seniors of any community in Grey County, so this is becoming more and more an issue or an important goal for the town,” said Ed Starr, a founding partner at SHS. 

The consulting firm worked with senior staff and council members over the past month to develop the vision for the campus, which Starr presented at a council meeting Mar. 2.

“We determined a number of guiding principles for this community, Starr said. “It would be a senior-focused community with long term care beds, a variety of housing and care support options, and housing for mixed-income and mixed tenure communities, so we could have people of a variety of income levels and tenure types occupying these units.”

The 160-bed long-term care facility, along with attainable housing for workers, will be mandatory components of the project, but Starr outlined the following possible inclusions for the campus of care:

  • Retirement housing/assisted living
  • Life-lease housing, which allows a resident to occupy their residence for life
  • Bungalows/cottages 
  • Central social/recreational hub 
  • Community gardens 
  • Childcare facility 
  • Seniors' day  program  centre 
  • Housing diversity in built form, tenure type, and price point 

“We're promoting innovation among design builders, so we were thinking we would only identify two mandatory elements, the 160-bed long-term care facility, which is really the anchor for this project, and then the attainable worker housing, but there could be any number of optional elements at the discretion of the proponents,” Starr said.

“We would want an emphasis on walking trails for social and physical well being, we would want to enhance the existing watercourse as a key natural and land design element,” Starr said. “We want to promote outdoor gathering spaces to enhance socialization, and reduce isolation.”

Members of council argued that other potential components of the campus should become mandatory, as well.

“The one thing I would do is add to the mandatory elements, some seniors attainable housing, and also the childcare facility - childcare is vital for the successful operation of the long term care home as well,” said Mayor Alar Soever. “Imagine the attraction for the long-term care workers of having attainable housing with a childcare facility on the same site as they work.”

Coun. Andrea Matrosovs wished to see environmental sustainability become a mandatory component in campus construction, but she did note that green features should not come at the expense of affordability.

“We can't build an awesome facility for seniors, 160 beds, and then have somebody say, but ‘I can't afford to run it’ – that is not sustainable either, she said. “There needs to be that economic component, but there also needs to be the environmental component.”

Council moved to defer its discussion on the project’s mandatory components to its Mar. 14 council meeting.

The town has set a target to begin construction on the long-term care facility by fall 2023.

“The anticipation is that in mid to latter part of 2023, we would commence construction of the long-term care home, which of this size, you're probably looking at a couple of years, so the estimated occupancy would be mid to late 2025,” Starr said.

As per the project’s website, the town is seeking a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) from the province, which allows the province to override the town’s local planning authorities in approving the project.

The town aims to create a list of qualified proponents by May 31, and to issue a request for proposal (RFP) in June and concurrently host a public information centre on the RFP process.

In August, the bids submitted by developers will be subject to public consultation, and the project’s design development will take place prior to the end of 2022.

In 2023, site plan approvals and building permits will be issued prior to beginning construction.

Coun. Paula Hope criticized the project’s visioning process for its lack of public consultation.

“I'm just wondering why we couldn't have found it in our hearts to bring in a couple of members of the community for this discussion,” she said. 

“I'm gobsmacked, I'm really, really surprised at the way this was handled,” she said. “Consultants and members of council and senior management team members are great, they know lots about the community, but the community knows best.”

Other members of council were not sympathetic to Hope’s views.

“The child care facility, that was brought forward by [Beaver Valley Outreach], and so now it's being included,” Soever said. “I urge any other members of the community to step forward with positive and constructive ideas.”

“I sincerely hope it doesn't go the way of the previous senior’s living five-storey building,” Soever continued. “Community engagement killed that – community engagement has killed a lot of good projects in this community.”

The deputy mayor argued the council discussion was public and comments from residents are welcome anytime.

“I find that so deeply insulting to everybody that's worked on this,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon. “All we're trying to do is bring it to the public, so the fact that your only comments, with fire and brimstone, is that we're leaving the public out – we're not leaving the public out, we're in a public forum today.”

“At the time we [created] the task force, wouldn't that have been a good time … to say, ‘Hey, maybe we should appoint two members of the public to this taskforce?’ Was that ever mentioned? I don't remember hearing that,” Bordignon said.

More information about the community campus of care project may be found here.

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About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie, LJI Reporter

Greg McGrath-Goudie covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands as part of the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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