Berwick Retirement Communities wants to build a 92-unit facility on this vacant land next to Qualicum Beach town hall.

Residents’ group supports new plan for vacant land next to Qualicum Beach town hall

Qualicum Beach Residents' Association president says Berwick Retirement Communities' plan is better than the previous idea, The Clarion

The Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association’s (QBRA) board of directors says it supports the latest development proposed for the vacant land next to town hall.

This project, a 92-unit proposal from Berwick Retirement Communities (BRC) that has yet to receive approval from town council, is much different than the last proposal for that land, which was known as The Clarion and created quite a stir in the community.

“It (the BRC plan) is a design that fits in with Qualicum Beach,” QBRA president Bill Adkins said in an interview Thursday, the day after the board released its review of the new proposal. “The Clarion design would have stuck out like a sore thumb.”

Much of the opposition to The Clarion was centred on the height of that proposed structure, roughly 4.5 storeys above ground. The BRC plan is the same height.

“It’s pretty much the same but they (BRC) have done a good job disguising the height with the architectural design, instead of emphasizing the height like The Clarion did,” said Adkins, adding that BRC is “going about it the right way, working with the public in advance.”

Adkins said the QBRA didn’t love everything about the BRC proposal, but he said the development on the high-profile parcel of downtown real estate would be “better than an empty lot.”

Adkins said the QBRA has approximately 300 members, including “the majority” of town council members.

Like The Clarion, there has been talk that these units downtown could free up houses for younger families to move into Qualicum Beach if retirees opt to downsize into the all-inclusive lifestyle of the BRC rental units. The difference, said Adkins, is The Clarion offered bigger, more expensive “Vancouver-style luxury condos” instead of the rental units of the BRC.

“It is our opinion this proposal will be a positive addition to our town,” the QBRA board said in the conclusion of its review of the BRC plan. “The developer has a solid reputation for building and operating quality facilities over many years. We also believe the economic model which Berwick follows is beneficial to our community. Berwick in Qualicum Beach will enable residents to downsize to assisted living and still have the continuity of remaining in our town.”

Berwick has built retirement communities in Campbell River, Comox, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Victoria (two). The average age of the residents is about 84. When they spoke with

The NEWS in June, Berwick officials said a best-case scenario would see them apply for a development permit by the end of the summer, start construction in the spring of 2017 and see occupancy in the fall of 2018.

The monthly costs for a unit — BRC facilities do not offer long-term leases — range from $2,400-$4,500, which basically includes everything, including meals, said Berwick officials, adding that this proposed facility in Qualicum Beach would employ the equivalent of 40 people full time.

When he met with The NEWS, Chris Denford, Berwick’s president, CEO and son of its founder Gordon Berwick, presented drawings of the proposed facility that includes patios and a solarium with a view of the ocean. He said it would also include a theatre, a wellness centre and meeting facilities that could be used by community groups. He called the style of architecture English arts and crafts design.

“We designed a building that fits in the community better than The Clarion did,” he said. “It has far more advantages than The Clarion ever did.”

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