Oak Bay Lodge site offers ‘clean slate’ opportunity

Regional hospital district to take ownership once current facility closes

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen sees an opportunity and clean slate for the community to build its own vision when the Capital Regional Hospital District takes ownership of Oak Bay Lodge

The Capital Regional Hospital District will own Oak Bay Lodge from Island Health after the facility closes, anticipated in 2019.

The closure would coincide with the opening of Island Health’s new 320-bed facility Summit at Quadra Village on the former Blanshard Elementary School playing field on Hillside Avenue.

“The public process will probably not occur for some time,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “The property will be used as a lodge to 2019 or 2020, at which time decisions will be made.”

The Capital Regional District plans to work with Oak Bay council on ideas and proposals for the site over the coming years.

The CRHD has identified an interest in using the site for the benefit of the community. The agreement includes a covenant that the land be used for the public good.

“(Public good) is a vague and wide term but it is one that a series of public engagement sessions will define,” Jensen said.

Built in 1972 as a private retirement residence for senior citizens, the 14,300-square-metre, multi-storey brick and concrete building comprises two patient wings with a central connecting wing.

In the early 1980s the building was converted to a long-term care facility and currently provides 235 residential care beds.

Not having perused the reports himself, Jensen says he’s been advised it would be “unwise to repurpose” the building.

“One thing seems fairly certain, the building will have to come down,” he said. “In essence that means we will start with a clean slate to look at a wide variety of opportunities.”

A suggestion he’s heard repeatedly is a seniors’ wellness centre, perhaps incorporating affordable seniors housing. The current facility does provide some seniors day activities and it would be in keeping with recent advice of provincial seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

“The evidence is quite clear aging in place is the best thing for seniors’ physical and emotional health,” Jensen said. “Creating the vision is completely open at this point.”

He notes the location is near services and amenities such as transit, groceries and the recreation centre that would provide high quality of life for seniors. “It would be ideal, but I think we all want to hear from the community about other ideal uses,” he said. “This is an opportunity to create a model for the rest of British Columbia.”