Construction delayed for Watson Lake seniors’ complex

Construction of a new 12-unit seniors’ complex in Watson Lake has been pushed to next spring. The building, expected to cost $4 million, is to…

Construction of a new 12-unit seniors’ complex in Watson Lake has been pushed to next spring.

The building, expected to cost $4 million, is to be paid for with money from the federally funded Northern Housing Trust.

The Yukon Housing Corp. initially planned to start construction before the end of 2008, but decided to slow the project down to allow time to consult with Watson Lake residents, said Don Routledge, a senior program adviser.

A similar nine-unit complex is being completed in Haines Junction, at a cost of $2.2 million.

The Watson Lake complex will be located on the corner of 8th Street and Finlayson Avenue and will have a view of Wye Lake. The project has been in the works since mid-May, when the housing corporation acquired the lot, said Routledge.

The property is adjacent to an existing, four-unit seniors’ facility, which will be connected to the new building, said Routledge.

The complex is intended for seniors with moderate health problems who still wish to live on their own.

Residents would have full apartments of their own, complete with kitchen, but the building would also have a communal kitchen and dining room.

The building is designed to be easily navigated by wheelchair-bound residents. Doorways are extra-wide. There are no stairs or steep grades. The bathrooms have different supports, such as grab-bars and arm-rests, for the elderly.

In addition, the complex is “super green,” said Juergen Korn, a research and development project manager with the housing corporation.

The heavily insulated walls are expected to cut heating costs by 80 per cent compared to a conventional building, he said. Windows will face the south to absorb as much sun as possible.

And the complex will be ready for solar panels to be installed at a later date, said Korn.

Watson Lake was chosen as the site of the project because it has a large, aging population, said Routledge.

Dawson City, which has more people, has no such facility in the works. The Yukon government plans to build a supported-living facility in Dawson, said Routledge.

Two “super-green” homes are also near completion in Watson Lake. These are being built at a cost of $750,000, and are to serve as staff housing for two community doctors.

The seniors’ complex is an attempt by the Yukon Party government to deflect attention from its now-abandoned plans to build a multi-level care facility for the elderly, adjacent to the existing Watson Lake Hospital Arthur Mitchell, leader of the Liberal opposition, said.

Watson Lake seniors were never interested in living in the proposed multi-level care facility, said Mitchell.

“Apparently the rooms are too small. It’s not what the seniors want,” he said.

“When their needs become that great, they recognize that they will want to move into a place like Whitehorse,” he added.