New Rocky lodge fills seniors gap

The Rocky Senior Housing Council set out to renovate and expand the 50-year-old Westview Lodge.

The Rocky Senior Housing Council set out to renovate and expand the 50-year-old Westview Lodge.

Instead, Rocky Mountain House seniors will be getting a new, modern lodge with room for 88 seniors.

Housing council chairman Bob Bryant said the original plan was to increase the size of about 18 rooms and build a two-storey addition within the U-shaped complex to boost the number of spaces to 88 from 53.

The project got a major boost last spring when the province approved a $5.6-million grant — half the cost. Clearwater County is contributing nearly $5 million and the Town of Rocky Mountain House and Village of Caroline are covering the rest.

Before going ahead, the council asked an architect to crunch the numbers and see what a new building would cost compared with a renovation. Bryant expected a price difference of millions.

“When it came back almost the same, yeah, we were pretty excited.”

There was one potential problem. The province had forwarded money for a renovation project and the council had to make sure the government was still on board for a new building.

“But they had no problems with that,” he said. “For them, it is a major advantage.”

From the government’s standpoint, the project makes sense because it provides a better facility that meets all the latest building codes. The existing lodge was meticulously maintained, but it was always a challenge to retrofit decades-old structures to meet present needs.

Bryant, who is also a Clearwater County councillor, said a new building also means savings on maintenance and utilities, which is good news for budgeting.

The biggest benefits will be for local seniors, who will now have a better chance of getting a space in the lodge.

“We have constant waiting lists,” he said.

Housing council chief administrative officer Kathy Snyder said most residents are looking forward to the new home, although some have grown attached to the existing lodge and are a little reluctant to embrace change. “I think it’s going to be nice. The rooms are going to be bigger.

Some of the existing rooms date to 1960, and even rooms once meant for two are small by today’s standards, she added.

“It’s time for today’s seniors to have a little bit more space, and to build for the future, too.”

The lodge will be built in two phases. About half the rooms will be ready by the end of 2010 and the remainder will be finished in 2011. Seniors will remain in the existing lodge while construction is underway on the new building and no disruptions are expected.

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