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Sunset Homes unveils design for new seniors housing

City of Powell River ready to approve 34-unit rental development on Joyce Avenue
Sunset Homes
NEW LOOK: Designed by architect Jenny Whitten, the new Sunset Homes seniors development features a distinctive butterfly roof. Contributed graphic

A few minor items remain and Powell River Sunset Homes Society will soon have the go ahead to build a new 34-unit affordable rental housing facility for seniors age 55-plus on Joyce Avenue south of Duncan Street.

“It could possibly be that council approves on May 3 and we might be in a position to issue the development permit on the fourth,” said City of Powell River director of planning Thomas Knight.

At the April 17 committee of the whole meeting, council was shown the proposed design done by Roost Studio architect Jenny Whitten.

With its butterfly roof, the building is distinctive from existing apartment buildings in Powell River and others in various stages of planning, which have typical, flat articulation roofs. The butterfly roof, with two roof surfaces sloping down in an inverted V-shape, is common in mid-century modern architecture. Thousands of homes in Palm Springs, California, were constructed in the 1950s with butterfly roofs.

“I've not constructed a butterfly roof before in one of my existing projects; I have proposed them in previous designs but they didn't get realized,” said Whitten, an accomplished architect of signature projects in Vancouver who is now living in Powell River. “It's something I thought made sense for that site, especially when you see it from the north and the south coming along Joyce Avenue. It has a really nice definition, and also it opens up the building toward the ocean. That was the thought behind the profile.”

From a planning perspective, Knight said it is not so much about the design of the project but land use.

“It really meets the idea that council wants to get higher density in the downtown area,” said Knight. “The design orients the building toward the front of the property rather than the back where you have parking. We want to get away from that and have more pedestrian presence or streetscape.”

Knight added that Sunset Homes might be planning two other phases for the property. He said the proposed facility currently before council is what the city’s planning department wants to see going forward with other projects on Joyce Avenue because the development will inform other buildings oriented toward the front and not the rear of properties.

“A really good building design marks your town in terms of a presence that money is coming into the community,” said Knight. “This is a non-profit society and it's showing a lot of leadership in terms of having really quality design.”

Sunset Homes has been a leader in providing affordable housing for seniors since the mid-1950s, beginning with the donation of land and monies from Olive and Alphonse Devaud.

The Devauds built the first seniors housing, a 12-unit boarding house now known as Centennial Homes on Westview Avenue. It was followed by the Olive Devaud Residence.

The Olive Devaud was sold in 2016 and proceeds helped fund the new residence.

Sunset Homes currently operates three afford housing facilities for seniors: Centennial Homes, McGregor Place and Leishman Place, which is named after city councillor CaroleAnn Leishman’s mother, Myrna.

Providing affordable rental units for seniors is definitely a need in Powell River, according to CaroleAnn, and Sunset Homes has been doing that for decades.

“They pretty much have a waiting list of 30 to 40 people all of the time,” said CaroleAnn, a past director of the society that has been part of her life for 30 years. “They've had a rotating waiting list for years and years of people hoping to get into one of the existing units and now people are hoping to get into the new building. There's definitely a lot of excitement on the possibilities of this new build.”

Sunset Homes now has more than double the number of people on the waiting list than there are units in the new building. At this time, the society is not adding to the list but will be opening up applications in the future. A website and dedicated phone number will be available soon.