At the request of the developer, the QBRA board met with the owner, operators of the BERWICK retirement communities. As you may know, BERWICK has purchased the property next to the Town Hall from the parties who had planned to build the Clarion.
Representing Berwick at this meeting were Mr. Gordon Denford, the founder, Mr. Chris Denford, CEO and Mr. Bill Bomhoff, VP, Construction. Berwick Retirement Communities currently operate in six communities, Nanaimo, Comox, Victoria, Oak Bay, Campbell River and Kamloops.
The proposed BERWICK Qualicum Beach facility is quite different from the proposed Clarion building. The proposed Berwick building is designed for 92 rental units while the Clarion proposal was intended to have 53 condominium units. To service the residents and their guests, Berwick estimates the need to employ about 40 full and part time staff.
The design and purpose of the proposed Berwick development is also different from the Clarion concept. In design, Berwick is proposing an “Arts and Crafts” style of architecture, which they believe is more complimentary to the feel of Qualicum Beach. The purpose of the proposed building is to provide housing and assisted living. To satisfy this purpose, 30 to 40% of the building space would be dedicated as common area for residents and their guests. The resident accommodations range between 350 square feet to 900 square feet. All units will have a balcony.
The Berwick retirement communities operate in a different manner compared to the Gardens. None of the Berwick units receive subsidy support and Berwick does not provide progressive care facilities. Essentially, Berwick’s market is the current homeowner who wants to stay in the community but no longer want to devote the time and money to maintain their home. Berwick’s business model of rent versus purchase gives those in retirement the option to downsize without reinvesting their home capital into another purchase of a condominium or townhouse.
Building height was a controversial issue with the Clarion proposal and the Berwick owners are very aware of that fact. If approved as presented, the Berwick Residence in Qualicum Beach would be the smallest of their six communities in terms of the unit numbers. The typical number of units is about 130. Berwick has tried with their building design elements to mitigate height concerns. However, the economic viability would be compromised by reducing the height, which would require reducing the number of units for rent.
The Berwick owners offered some facts based on their experience from existing operations. The average age of residents is 84 to 85. Over the past decade, this average has increased noticeably. The turnover rate among residents is approximately 25% over a three-year period. The primary market is retired with an annual disposable income of about $40,000/year. The owners have observed a generational trend with their residents having increased expectations in the number and quality of amenities offered.
The QBRA board supports the BERWICK proposal for Qualicum Beach. It is our opinion this proposal will be a positive addition to our Town. The developer has a solid reputation for building and operating quality facilities over many years. We also believe the economic model which Berwick follows is beneficial to our community. Berwick in Qualicum Beach will enable residents to downsize to assisted living and still have the continuity of remaining in our Town.
Having considered the amenities Berwick intends to provide, the fact that 30-40% of building space will be used to provide these amenities, the provision for underground parking, storm water management, underground cabling and the overall building design and landscaping, we conclude the proposed building height to be tolerable.
Finally, we support the approach Berwick is taking to introduce themselves to our community, to answer questions, and to hear concerns. We understand Berwick will hold a public meeting where you can develop your own opinion in upcoming months. Meanwhile, to learn more, we suggest you contact: Berwickretirement.com
We hope you find this summary helpful.
Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association Board