The rezoning application for the controversial renewal project at Duncan Manor is expected to submitted to the City of Duncan by the end of September.
Christine Wright, executive director of the Duncan Housing Society which is in charge of the project, said the DHS wants to emphasize that the amenities people enjoy at Centennial Park, including the tennis courts, basketball courts, cob oven, lawn, community gardens and more would not be removed as part of the proposed development.
She said that as the lawn bowling site would become part of the City of Duncan’s properties through the deal with the local government to move forward with the project, if it’s approved by council, it would be protected through the city’s ownership as a community amenity.
Wright said that all parking stalls impacted in the property exchange with the city would be replaced directly to the north through a new vehicle access to the park from Second Street.
“This project will result in a net gain of appropriate and affordable rental units in the City of Duncan, with no loss of parking or green space related to the park,” Wright said.
“It will also provide improved access and safety for the community.”
Duncan Manor, which is operated by the DHS, is a three-storey, 122-unit building that offers below-market independent housing for seniors and persons with disabilities.
But the facility is more than 50 years old and the aging plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, and other components of the building are showing wear and tear after decades of use, so the society is proposing replacing it with an entirely new, expanded facility at the site with 133 new and affordable housing units when completed.
The province committed to funding the project in June, but said the final dollar figure for it won’t be confirmed until the final design of the new facility is completed and the construction contract is finalized.
The memorandum of understanding between the city and society that has been signed would see a land swap for the portion of the nearby Lawn Bowling Club, currently owned by the society, for a portion of the city’s Centennial Park parking lot to make way for the construction of the new building on a portion of the parking lot.
The current parking lot is proposed to be expanded northward to maintain the same number of parking spaces, while access to the park would be moved to Second Street.
Wright said the DHS has spent more than three years researching and considering alternative land options for the redevelopment of Duncan Manor.
She said the society explored 11 different sites in Duncan and surrounding area for the project.
“Potential sites in Duncan, North Cowichan and even the redevelopment of the lawn bowling area was considered for the new building,” Wright said.
“These sites were ultimately declared unsuitable as they were either too expensive to purchase the land, located out of reach from key amenities and services for residents, or the land had constructability issues that limited the ability to construct a multi-unit development.”
Some members of the community have raised objections to the possibility of losing a section of Centennial Park if the project proceeds as planned.
In a letter to the editor last June, Barry Corrin called the planned project “soul crushing”.
“Thousands of people use Centennial Park all year long, and paving roadways, parking spaces and constructing a six-storey building in Centennial Park would be soul crushing,” Corrin said.
“Given how little parkland there is in Duncan, using even a millimetre of sacred urban green space is immoral, thoughtless and careless.”
Another letter writer, Gary Wiebe, said seniors in the community are “worried sick” about the project.
“I believe the people of Duncan have been loud and clear about not wanting [the DHS] to touch their much loved and used facilities,” Wiebe said.
“It would be far more appropriate for [The DHS] to purchase the land south of the existing manor and build there.”
Kaeley Wiseman, the development consultant supporting the DHS on the project, said public engagement events are expected to begin in mid-October.
She said up-to-date information on the project and upcoming events can be found at the DHS website at https://duncanhousingsociety.ca/new-build-information.