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New 20-storey seniors housing tower not about money, says developer

Don and Candy Ho gave passionate speech about seniors housing project during Jan. 29 public hearing
An artist rendering of the 20-storey Oasis tower. Supplied image

Building Langley’s first 20-storey tower is “not about money,” say developers Don and Candy Ho.

“We consider ourselves not developers, but community builders and operators of communities that bring people together,” Candy told Township council during a public hearing on Jan. 29.

The Ho family are the proponents for Care Pacific (Maple Gardens), a 20-storey tower of seniors housing proposed for construction near the Langley Event Centre at 7743 and 7787 200 St.

Titled Oasis, it’s the first of seven buildings planned for the 17-acre site. It will feature 196 units for adults aged 55 and older, with 42 designated as licensed care rooms, 56 as senior’s housing units and 98 as apartments (both rental and condo).

READ MORE: Langley Township’s first 20-storey tower passes hurdle at council

Don has developed similar assisted living buildings in the past, including Langley Gardens in Walnut Grove and Crescent Gardens in South Surrey. He has now brought in his daughters Candy and Wendy to continue the family business with the Oasis project.

When Langley Gardens was developed nearly 20 years ago, it was one of the first buildings of its kind to bridge the gap between complex care and independent living, Don said. They received a huge response, and as a result built 396 units in three phases over six years.

“The reason why I like to do another project in the Township of Langley is that I really have a heart in the Township here,” Don said.

“And it’s not because it (Langley Gardens) was such a successful project that I think, ‘Oh there is money to be made.’ No, that was not the intention at all. The money just chased after me, just because I created something that really met the needs of the community.”

The Ho family shared their passion for the project with council after seven members of the public gave their opinions. Five people appeared to be in favour of the project, while two people presented concerns.

Rebecca Jarvis works in the health care industry, and said there is “a real lack” of seniors housing in the area.

“I think one of the things that I like about this proposal, (is) the ability to keep people close to their families,” she said. “Right now the way that (it) works is that your family member could end up anywhere … For me, with aging parents, this is an awesome idea because it allows me to have them close to my kids, close to home.”

Gord Schutz, who is Pastor of the Mountainview Alliance Church across the street from the project, said he is struck by “the alignment” of the vision of the project and the church’s mission.

“I really believe in that kind of inter-generational mix and connection in that way,” he said. “And one of the things, interestingly, that we’re exploring even as a church — and we have considerable piece of land ourselves — is we’re asking the question, ‘How can we be a blessing to our community?’

“We’ve been exploring things ourselves like low cost housing for folks who are disadvantaged and who can’t afford to live here. And so I see these parallel things happening.”

Murrayville resident Anna R said that Oasis is “a good concept,” but she questions whether Langley Memorial Hospital can accommodate the needs of these seniors. She also raised concerns about the low number of parking stalls being provided, the prices of the units, and the fact that children are not allowed to live in the units.

“When I look at this I wonder to myself, is Langley Memorial ready to handle the level of care that this many people would require as they age?” she said. “And I have to say that it really isn’t. I’m really well aware of what Langley Memorial is able to do because of my own personal experiences.”

Brookswood resident Michelle Connerty echoed Anna R’s comments, and said she is concerned the tower is being pushed through too fast.

“We definitely need to plan this in our community, but we also need to plan the infrastructure previous to building,” she said.

Candy later responded to some of the concerns. In regard to the question of children, she said the first building in the project will be for people aged 55 and over, but they are hoping future phases can integrate people of all ages.

In terms of needing additional resources at Langley Memorial Hospital, she noted that Oasis will offer acute care for seniors on site. And as for transportation, Candy said they will provide their own transportation through shuttle buses and shared cars.

Coun. Blair Whitmarsh asked for a response to the parking issue, especially when it comes to stalls provided for visitors and caregivers.

Architect Bryce Rositch said that they determined the number of stalls based off a study of 13 similar developments in Metro Vancouver. The study found that the average demand is 0.4 stalls per unit, and so they are proposing 0.65 stalls per unit.

“Because it’s a multi-phased development, there’s the opportunity to assess what the actual needs are,” Rositch added.

“None of us want to provide more parking than necessary, (but) we don’t want to under supply. And so there’s an opportunity to monitor truly what the needs are and make adjustments necessary in future phases.”

Coun. Kim Richter asked what percentage of the 98 apartments will be rental versus condo, and if the prices of the rentals will be comparable to what’s charged at Langley Gardens.

Candy said they do not have the final numbers, but they usually allot 55 to 60 per cent of the apartments as rentals.

“We want to provide for as many (seniors) as possible, not the top (price) and not the non-profit either, because we see that there are non-profit organizations and government funded situations that people can go to,” Candy said. “We want to provide a high quality of living without it being excruciatingly expensive.”

Both Don and Candy noted that the industry “is very tight with profitability,” and that at one time, it was only operated by non-profits and government sectors.

Because of that, less than 10 per cent of communities in Canada have “true aging in place,” Candy said.

“When I speak about inter-generational, age-friendly communities, it’s now become a global focus to provide that,” she said.

“And our project Oasis specifically won an international award out of 900 retirement projects worldwide because of this vision … We are very proud to be developers in this case. Not the big bad developer, but the community builder because there’s not enough of that in this industry.”

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