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Assisted living complex on ice

It's been nearly a year after the Yukon government announced it would be "weeks, not months" before the Alexander Street Residence would be converted into an assisted living complex, but now the change may not happen at all

It’s been nearly a year after the Yukon government announced it would be “weeks, not months” before the Alexander Street Residence would be converted into an assisted living complex, but now the change may not happen at all.

In July 2011, when the elderly residents who formerly lived on Alexander Street were moved to a new home at Spook Creek off Quartz Road, Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said that the downtown apartments would soon be home to 15 to 20 Yukoners with disabilities like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

But no one is living there yet.

“I believed it when I said it,” said Living on Thursday. “We were really working quite hard to make sure that was actually the way it was going to be.

“At the time, we weren’t aware of the magnitude of the changes that would be required. We were working to the assumptions that we’d need to go in, slap a coat of paint on, make some minor repairs like any landlord would do, and that’s the premise under which we made that statement because that’s what we had been told.”

But the residence at 207 Alexander Street is a “very old building,” having been built in 1963, said Marc Perreault with the Yukon Housing Corporation.

It’s considered inhabitable, but the building is currently unsafe by both building codes and the corporation’s own standards, said Perreault.

Yukon Housing is still in the process of finding out everything that needs to be fixed.

The downtown residence met the building codes of its time. But if you put a building to a new use, you have to apply today’s building codes, said Perreault.

Along with assessing the repairs that will be needed, the corporation is also checking for hazardous materials commonly used in construction decades ago, like asbestos and lead paint.

“Hazardous materials become more of a significant issue once they are disturbed,” said Perreault. “We would never place clients in an unsafe condition.”

Which is exactly why no one has moved in yet.

The corporation is still waiting for lab results to see if there are hazardous materials in the building, said Perreault.

If so, it will have to consider the cost to remove them, on top of other renovations to bring the building up to code. Ramps and elevators may need to be installed. And all of this may prove too costly to be worthwhile.

“The building itself is deteriorating, and the ongoing operations costs for energy efficiency and safety, we have to take that into consideration also,” he said. “That’s the building’s life cycle that’s being reviewed.

Perreault wouldn’t entertain the suggestion that the building may not be used at all and that the corporation may choose to tear it down and put the lot on the market instead.

“At this time we don’t know what the costs are so we can’t make that decision,” he said. “It creates options of how the building could be used. I don’t want to talk about the worst-case scenario. But definitely the life cycle of the building is being reviewed.”

In a few weeks, the corporation will hear back from an Outside lab about possible hazardous materials. Then the territory will decide whether or not to proceed with renovations.

But after the last question period of the spring sitting in the legislature Thursday, Premier Darrell Pasloski said the intentions for Alexander Street have changed.

On Thursday, Premier Darrell Pasloski told reporters that the Alexander Street project is being “re-evaluated.”

“We’ve looked at a different location that will be more suitable,” he said. “We want to ensure the investment we make in 207 will be the right investment for Whitehorse and for Yukon.”

Pasloski touted another project instead. A non-profit is “back on track” with its plans to provide a home for residents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, said Pasloski.

Pasloski wouldn’t name the group, but the description matches Options for Independence. In September, the government committed $2 million to expand the outfit’s supportive housing operation from six to 24 units.

But that work was put on ice after the Department of Community Services launched an investigation into the organization.

Government officials never spoke to the nature of the allegations except to say the group is accused of somehow running afoul of the Societies Act. The non-profit recently picked a new board of directors.

“They had some work to do to ensure that they would be in a position that we could work with them,” Pasloski said. “So I’m optimistic that hopefully we’re going to see the complex for people with FASD move forward.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at