“What do you think? Not too bad,” said Greg Hill, as he looked around at the brand new $5.2-million housing complex.
Friday was a joyous day for Hill, the executive director of the Campbell River Association for Community Living, and many others who came out for the official opening of Palmer Place.
“This is a great, great investment for a long term return,” said Comox Valley MLA Don McRae on behalf of the B.C. Government.
Located at 280 Nikola Rd., the site of a former group home, Palmer Place provides housing for people with special needs and 24 more units to shelter women and children in transition.
“Hi, I’m nervous as heck…but a thousand thank-yous…I’m one of the privileged people chosen to live here,” said Debbie Lagroix, one of the Palmer Place residents.
The ground-level, fully-accessible units are beautifully designed and built to the gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. There’s also an edible community garden.
“This is an exercise in community, not an experiment or test,” noted Hill.
The province contributed the lion’s share of the money, $4.8 million, to build and operate the facility, while Community Living provided the land valued at $425,000.
The third partner in Palmer Place is the North Island Transition Society which provides shelter to women and their children who are fleeing abusive relationships.
“Our clients have taken great pride in their new homes here which offer them a safe environment in which their needs are met,” said Valery Puetz, the society’s executive director, in a news release.
The five single-storey wood-frame buildings consist of:
- A replacement group home with four bedrooms, office, living room, kitchen and common area.
- Eight units of assisted living for people with disabilities.
- Six one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units in a third building.
- Five one-bedroom, two two-bedroom and one three-bedroom transitional units and offices.
- A fifth building with a large common area and storage place.
“It’s beautiful,” said Dorothy Gaudreault, who has a 43-year-old daughter, Maureen, who has lived in the group home for 16 years. “This is something you dream about because you don’t think it could happen.”
Gaudreault, along with her late husband, were one of the early members who got things going for Community Living in Campbell River.
Gaudreault Manor, one of the transitional units, was named for the family while Elderkin Manor and Dion Manor were named in honour of other early founders; Palmer Place was named for Ray and Mary Palmer.
“We keep it all in the family,” said Michelle Albrecht, who was flanked by her brothers, Walter and Danny Dion, who are well-known in the city for winning efforts at the Special Olympics.
With the exception of the children’s playground, which will soon be installed, the only other thing missing at Palmer Place was a vehicle to provide residents with transportation.
But that was taken care of too when Albrecht and her brothers presented a new, wheelchair-accessible Ford Protege to Palmer Place on behalf of their late parents.
“This was much-needed,” said Albrecht, who pointed out the closest bus stop is on Petersen Road and there are no sidewalks on Nikola or Willis roads. “I just thought of the young moms pushing strollers along Willis Road – it’s not safe and it scared me.”
Palmer Place was built to foster a feeling of community where people can feel safe, secure and can enjoy get-togethers with family and friends.
“I’m going to use the word ‘special’ a lot. This is a special day for us,” said Hill.