The repurposing of the Hamptons Inn & Suites in Airdrie, which went into receivership earlier this year, will increase seniors' housing by nearly 100 units in the new year.
According to Carol Borschneck, chief administrative officer with Rocky View Foundation (RVF), the housing will range from studio to two-bedroom apartments, and the construction is expected to create 150 construction and permanent operational jobs.
“This is a big deal for Airdrie,” she said. “We have been working on developing affordable seniors' housing for the last three or four years with Abrio Health.”
She said the idea came from Abrio Health after determining the building could be easily converted into a lodge for seniors. A similar project to convert a hotel into a seniors' residency occurred earlier this year in Chestermere.
“It is not common practice yet, but I think we will see this more and more,” Borschneck said.
According to a RVF press release, many businesses in the hospitality sector are severely strained or permanently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the ongoing need for affordable and market-based seniors' housing, this represents an opportunity to utilize these assets to meet needs in new ways.
Borschneck said the pandemic has resulted in some seniors feeling fearful of moving into new housing, which is why RVF has focused on providing a safe and affordable home for local seniors.
“We consider the conditions of the pandemic and design accordingly,” she said. “There are seniors who are living in sub-standard conditions in Airdrie. Some are in basements or overcrowded situations, so I think it’s important to provide this affordable housing before the end of 2021.”
Additionally, many of Alberta’s existing seniors’ lodges require a contribution of land, a significant capital grant or operational funding from government. According to Borschneck, this project will manage the acquisition, renovation and operations through private-sector financing and municipal requisitions – meaning there is no need for a capital construction grant.
According to Borschneck, there is a waitlist of 70 to 100 seniors looking for housing at any given time between the seniors’ lodge in Crossfield and Diamond Jubilee Manor in Airdrie.
“We know there is a good market for this – it is needed,” she said. “We are looking forward to helping people out.”
Borschneck said 2020 has hit seniors harder than other demographics as their lives have been disrupted and they are facing extended periods of isolation due to the pandemic. She added the staff at retirement homes and senior-care facilities have been working incredibly hard to keep residents’ spirits up.
“Employees have made great personal sacrifices to keep our residents safe,” she said. “They have been amazing throughout this past nine months and deserve our utmost respect and gratitude.”