Grey County council has made the decision to move ahead with a Rockwood Terrace long-term care redevelopment project in Durham that now has an estimated pricetag of $108.5 million.
On Thursday, council voted in favour of a project that includes the redevelopment of a new 128-bed long-term care home, along with retail and commercial space and assisted living units. While the proposed project goes beyond simply building a long-term care home, it removes planned apartment units that were part of “campus of care” vision.
The timeline for completion of the project remains the summer of 2025.
Chief administrative officer Kim Wingrove said that despite having to remove the apartments for the time being, Thursday’s decision by council was a significant step and a positive one for the project.
“Having the assisted living and having a bit of a public space and a welcoming space on the ground floor as you come in – we were thinking of a café and a space for other amenities — I think will make a big difference to the site and peoples’ enjoyment of the site,” Wingrove said.
“For council to have made this decision and having such broad support from the development task force it feels like we are moving forward in a really great way today.”
Director of long-term care Jennifer Cornell gave some early design details of the project during the meeting, highlighting the “community feeling” as possibly the most important element, which was achieved with extensive engagement with stakeholders, including staff and residents and their families.
“It didn’t matter what we were talking about, we applied the lens of community and home-like feeling and what was important,” said Cornell. “This design features nooks and seating alcoves for residents to gather for visits with each other and/or with their visitors both inside and outdoors, it provides cognitive stimulation stations and few to no dead-ends.”
Cornell said the home includes natural walking paths throughout, as well as natural gathering spaces, including gardens, outdoors.
Thursday’s decision comes as 2025 quickly approaches, which is when the county is required to upgrade Rockwood Terrace from a Class C to Class A facility.
The province has approved the county’s application to redevelop the home’s 100 existing beds and add 28 new beds in the new 128-bed home on a 32-acre property directly south of the current Rockwood.
The option council chose to proceed with on Thursday was one of three presented.
In the proposed project the new long-term care home, which is central to the project, will be a two-storey 98,000-square-foot structure. Attached to it will be a 66,000-sq-ft building, with a village square with retail and commercial space on the first floor and 40 communal living units on the second and third floors.
It is pared down from a previously discussed campus of care model that would provide various levels of living, by removing plans for a three-storey, 60,000-sq-ft, 60-unit apartment building on the site.
Council heard that the cost of an option to build the long-term care home alone had increased 33 per cent over an estimate provided last year, from $56.7 million to about $75.3 million.
The option that includes the long-term care home, village square, assisted living units as well as the apartment building with 45 market rental units and 15 affordable units, pushes the overall estimated cost to almost $140 million.
Wingrove said the county could decide to add the proposed apartment building in the future.
“Given the focus on affordable housing and rental housing there may be future funding that we could access that might help to defray some of those costs,” Wingrove said.
Thursday’s motion, recommended by the county’s long-term care redevelopment task force, was passed 77-13 by county council in a weighted vote on Thursday. Only The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever and Deputy-mayor Peter Bordignon voted against it.
Soever said he had concerns that the analysis showed their net costs increased for the campus of care model, when the industry is moving towards those models. Soever also expressed concerns about the increased cost of the project.
While the cost of the option chosen is 44 per cent more than building the long-term care home only, additional revenue generated from the assisted living spaces and food and retail tenant space, means the estimated annual net operating and capital cost of $5.8 million over 25 years is only 11.8 per cent more than it is if the county constructed only the long-term care home.
The cost estimates, provided by cost consultant Turner and Townsend, are accurate to plus or minus 20 to 30 per cent “at this early stage,” and Wingrove said costings will be further refined the closer they get to construction. She expected an accurate costing of the project to be available sometime around September. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2023.
The county plans to take out a loan for the project, which it would repay through a 25-year debenture that would coincide with the annual construction subsidy to be provided to them by the province over a 25-year period. That subsidy is just over $1 million per year.
The county is also continuing to work on other ways to offset some of the cost of the redevelopment. It has been transferring $1.361 million to reserves each year towards the project, with the amount accumulated approaching $10 million.
And Wingrove said there are some assets the county could use to help offset the cost, including the sale or development and sale of 22 acres adjacent to the 10-acre home site. The existing Rockwood Terrace site, which isn’t part of the new development, could also be sold or developed and sold.
Wingrove said the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus is also actively working to ask the province for increased long-term care construction funding.
“At one time, that provincial contribution to the construction subsidy was somewhere north of 40 per cent, but it is much closer to 30 per cent right now given the increases we have seen in construction cost over the relatively short term,” Wingrove said, adding that staff are working hard to explore the other revenue options.
Wingrove said that now that the project manager, Colliers Project Leaders, has a clear direction from council on what they are to be making plans for, they will now be able to get into the detailed designs.