Ben Robertson and Jutta Milligan outside the new addition. More photos, including inside the units, accompany this story at (Photo by Don Bodger)

Steeples three-unit expansion nearing completion

Project will add more much-needed independent housing

The independent living units for seniors being built adjacent to the Steeples Assisted Living facility on Esplanade Street in Chemainus have garnered plenty of attention.

“There is intense interest locally in this project,” conceded Jutta Milligan, president of the Steeples Housing Society.

The demand from potential residents to occupy the space is sure to be high, with only three more available cottage-style units separate from the main 16-unit building.

“That’s all there was land for,” said Milligan of the project that’s been in the works since the 10th anniversary of Steeples was celebrated two years ago in 2017.

“We used as much of it as we could,” she indicated. “This is as big as we could fit in.”

The land where Steeples stands was donated by the Chemainus Health Care Foundation.

The design and the colours of the main building have all been duplicated in the new units by Lake Construction, the general contractors, of Chemainus.

The contract was signed with the construction company early this year following approval of the plans. Excavation started in the summer and it’s been full speed ahead toward building and finishing the units ever since.

The hope is to have everything completed by early in the new year, although that’s always subject to unforeseen circumstances.

“Nothing ever goes perfect in construction,” laughed Ben Robertson of Lake Construction, owned by Matt White.

Three to five employees of the company have been working steadily, although “it’s mostly sub-trades that do the majority of the work,” Robertson indicated.

Even though it’s only three units, combined with another seven-unit project being done on Willow Street by Jon Lefebure, “that’s really a big increase in affordable housing for one small town,” Milligan pointed out.

Seniors interested in moving into the new space will have to apply.

“Our goal is to provide affordable housing for seniors and persons with disabilities,” said Milligan. “We hope to start collecting applications by the end of the year.

“The tenants in this new building will be entirely independent. It’s just like renting an apartment.”

Units in the main building are subsidized through Island Health and BC Housing.

A local citizen’s bequest, combined with the society’s own resources, made the new facility possible.

“We felt the best way to honour his generosity was to use the money to help build this building,” noted Milligan.

She’s served 12 years as a director of the Steeples Housing Society, which owns and operates the Steeples Assisted Living facility, much of that time as secretary-treasurer. In May, she took over the presidency from Bill Cleary, who had been president since 2006 when construction of the facility began.

After being on the board so long under Cleary’s tenure, she feels well-versed to handle the operations.

The current board has eight members.

Patty Cocks, one of the visionaries along with Rondeau Fenton in making the original project happen, is the vice president. Lawrence Hogge is the new treasurer and Marjory Sutherland handles the secretary duties.

“We have a lawyer, a teacher, an artist, a scientist and a banker,” noted Milligan. “We’ve covered all the options.”

“Everybody helps out in areas that they specialize in. We have our assigned duties that fit in with our skills.”

Liz Bennett is the Steeples administrator, with several paid employees providing food service, housekeeping, administration assistance and social programs.

When everything’s done and new tenants have moved in, “we will tackle our next project,” said Milligan.

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Cabinetry inside one of the new units. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The new area of the Steeples assisted living facility being developed. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The new units with the main building of Steeples in the background. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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