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Fate of Rainbow complex in seniors' hands

Whistler Housing Authority gauging interest this week to determine feasibility



If enough Whistler seniors step up to the plate this week, work will get underway on a brand new seniors complex at Rainbow.

But to get the project up and running at least 15 people will have to put down a $5,000 refundable deposit.

"I'm hoping we'll see it," said Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) General Manager Marla Zucht.

"If (the demand) is not strong, then we don't go forward."

Finding that demand, however, may prove to be a challenge.

The president of Whistler's Mature Action Committee (MAC), Gord Leidal admitted that the membership favours locations closer to the village, where seniors can easily access doctors, groceries and the pharmacy.

"That has always been the preference of our membership," said Leidal.

This week Allan Eaton, in response to the WHA survey gauging interest in the Rainbow complex, wrote:

"I am interested in senior housing... but not really at the Rainbow site," he said. "It lacks everything seniors really need."

Eaton went on to say that he doesn't drive and that seniors would be "seriously hampered" when it comes to convenience.

The complex, which would be an independent living facility, is slated for Lot 10 in the Rainbow subdivision. The municipality owns that land after taking possession of it from developer Rod Nadeau when it dismissed his pricing structure.

Nadeau kept Lot 11 for his own seniors housing complex. Called "The Woods" the project was put on hold two months ago due to lack of interest in the seniors' community.

Just six people seriously looked at buying units in the building.

"That wasn't enough to launch the project," said Nadeau.

He believes that the slow down in the real estate market changed the situation because homeowners couldn't get as much equity out of their homes, and may have had trouble selling their homes.

In response, however, to concerns that the Rainbow is far away from village amenities, Nadeau pointed out that the neighbourhood is zoned for commercial space with a grocery store and other amenities.

"I think we all agree that the best place for seniors housing, if possible, is closer to the village," admitted Zucht.

Long on the books is the Holborn seniors housing complex on the edge of the village but the fate of that project is unknown and it could be years before the project gets off the ground.

"It's in that holding pattern again," said Zucht.

"How long do you keep waiting for it?"

The Rainbow housing on the other hand could be a sure thing if enough people commit.

Leidal said the quantity surveyor has come up with a cost estimate of $331 per square foot.

He is hoping that price will come down when they go out to tender.

"We have a time within the building industry when there's not a lot of work out there so it's highly competitive," said Leidal.

"It's probably in our best interests to build it now rather than later."

The WHA is taking feedback on the Lot 10 project until today (Thursday May 19).

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