13 Jul Sod Turned for Construction of New Seniors’ Residence in Fort Macleod
The sod was turned Thursday for a project that two years ago seemed out of reach.
The ceremony signalled the start of construction of a $9-million seniors lodge in Fort Macleod.
“It was St. Francis of Assisi who said, start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” Willow Creek Foundation chair Maryanne Sandberg said. “And that’s what happened.”
About 36 people turned out for the sod-turning ceremony on the lawn of the old Macleod Pioneer Lodge on 28th Street.
“The Willow Creek Foundation was doing what was necessary and trying to do what was possible to improve living conditions for our seniors in Pioneer Lodge. And then what we thought was impossible, actually became possible.”
The means to build the new 40-unit, one-storey lodge arrived in the form of $7.25-million in provincial and federal funding.
Willow Creek Foundation had been expecting only enough money to install a sprinkler system and do some renovations at the present lodge, which was built in 1960.
MP John Barlow and then-Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson instead delivered $7.25-million under the Investments in Affordable Housing Agreement.
Barlow said he remembers the surprise on Sandberg’s face when the funding was announced. Barlow said a tour of the old lodge with its small rooms, narrow hallway and shared washroom facilities made it clear a new building was needed.
The Member of Parliament noted that many seniors have spent their lives raising families, volunteering and working in a community.
“As they age, it’s important that they have the opportunity and the infrastructure that they can stay in these communities,” Barlow said. “We want to make sure they are able to stay close to friends and family and their social network, and that’s why these types of facilities are so important.”
In August 2015 the foundation met with the capital development division of Alberta Seniors.
Less than a year later, Berry Architects of Red Deer have completed the drawings and contractors are tendering their bids to build the $9-million structure.
“Malcolm X stated that if you have no critics, you’re likely to have no success,” Sandberg said. “We’ve had our critics but the board, with the help of Alberta Housing, has stayed strong.”
Criticism surrounded the board’s decision to demolish the old lodge and rebuild on the site at 660 28th St.
The board was also criticized for displacing the residents of the old Macleod Pioneer Lodge, who were forced to find alternate accommodations during the two-year demolition and construction period, and laying off most of the staff.
Sandberg praised Willow Creek Foundation board members and the staff for their hard work while going through planning for the new facility.
“This lodge is going to be built to better serve the needs of our community, now and into the future,” Sandberg said.
Berry Architects designed a one-storey building with 40 rooms, common areas, patios. spa room, kitchen and laundry.
The northwest and southeast wings each consist of 15 studio suites and five one-bedroom suites.
The studio suites are 350 sq. ft. with a kitchen, living area, space for a bed and a bathroom with a shower, toilet, closet and full-size sink with a vanity.
The one-bedroom suites are 515 sq. ft. with a separate bedroom, living area, storage space, kitchen and bathroom with a shower, toilet and full-size sink with vanity.
Some of the suites are adjacent to outdoor patios.
“Once we get this into construction very soon, I think you will be very pleased,” said architect George Berry, who attended the sod-turning ceremony.
Mary Ann Krahulic attended the ceremony on behalf of the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.
“It’s an exciting day for Fort Macleod,” Krahulic said.
Krahulic said the old lodge served the needs of residents well since 1960, but it was time for a new building.
“These units will be more than just a safe and affordable place for them to live,” Krahulic said.
The new lodge will become their home, and an important asset to Fort Macleod and district.
“I know there were a lot of difficult decisions to be made with the lodge,” MD of Willow Creek Reeve Earl Hemmaway said. “I think you made the right decisions.”
Hemmaway said the new building will enhance the quality of life of seniors in Fort Macleod and the MD of Willow Creek.
Granum Mayor John Connor agreed with Hemmaway the new lodge is an asset not just to Fort Macleod, but to seniors in the municipal district and his town.
Connor, who serves on the Willow Creek Foundation’s board, said he was excited to be involved in the planning of the new lodge, joking that it could be his home in the not-too-distant future.
Fort Macleod Deputy Mayor Brent Feyter thanked the MD of Willow Creek and Town of Granum for its partnership in the Willow Creek Foundation as well as the provincial and federal governments.
“I think today is a definitely a memorable moment for all of us here,” Feyter said. “We look forward to seeing this building built.”
Lethbridge MLA Maria Fitzpatrick represented the minister of seniors and housing, and spoke of her personal experience with her own parents when they needed care.
Fitzpatrick said the old Macleod Pioneer Lodge has served its purpose as a home for seniors and an asset to Fort Macleod and district.
“Today is the start of a new beginning,” Fitzpatrick said.
The new building gives seniors a chance to age in their community in a place that offers modern, safe facilities.
“It is a comfort for the residents, and peace of mind for their loved ones,” Fitzpatrick said.