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Fate of former Foothills Lodge taking shape in Sundre

Land use redesignation approved by Sundre council paves way for applicant to submit development permit

SUNDRE – After many years of lingering in limbo, the former Foothills Lodge’s future is finally starting to look much brighter.

Although the former long-term seniors care residency located at 124 – 1st Street northwest will not any time in the immediate future be re-opening under a new mixed-use design, the facility’s new fate is nevertheless starting to take shape.

Council approved on Sept. 5 during the first regular meeting following the summer hiatus a land use redesignation to Central Commercial from General Residential on the parcel of land the property sits on west of Centre Street and south of the Bearberry Creek.

The former Foothills Lodge shuttered its doors in 2016 when Mountain View Seniors’ Housing opened that summer the larger and modernized Sundre Seniors Support Living centre in the southwest subdivision.

Benazir Thaha Valencia, senior planner, told council during a public hearing held immediately prior to the regular meeting that applicant Joel Bond is working on a proposal to renovate the existing two-storey structure into a mixed-use development.

“The new building will consist of studio units and one-bedroom units,” Valencia said, adding other amenities will include a kitchen, dining room, lounge areas, laundry facility, as well as meeting spaces that will primarily be intended for those residing in the building.

“However, they will also provide public access to some of the amenities, such as meeting spaces and small function areas to host various celebrations, and other options as they arise for the residents of Sundre,” she said.

The next step following the official approval of the amended bylaw will be for the applicant to submit paperwork for a development permit, she added.

“The development permit review process will consider parking, landscaping, and exterior elevations,” reads part of a report she prepared for council.

The project will not only provide an additional source of accessible and affordable rental accommodations and new amenities for the downtown area, but also help to encourage the further development of innovative and alternative housing options as well as mixed-use developments, she said, adding that all fits in with the town’s municipal development plan.

“It would provide a source of accessible and affordable residential accommodations as well as social and commercial opportunities within the central downtown area,” she said.

Additionally, the site already has existing services such as water and sanitary as well as gas and storm drainage, she said.

Following her presentation, mayor Richard Warnock asked if there might be anything else that would have to be identified in regards to servicing.

“As part of the development permit application, the applicant would be providing all engineering studies – including anything pertaining to servicing – and it would be reviewed by our engineering consultant,” replied Valencia.

Coun. Paul Isaac said he liked what he was hearing and asked for a reminder about the expected number and size of the units the applicant has in mind.

“What is all going to be in there?” Isaac asked.

Valencia said the applicant’s plan to date identified about 26 units, but told council that is not yet written in stone.

“It will not be verified and confirmed until he applies for the development permit,” she explained.

Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, told council that no written submissions opposing the proposal had been received by the municipality. Later during the public hearing, there was also no one who stepped forward to voice any concerns.

Bond, who was in the gallery for the proceeding, accepted when offered an opportunity to address council.

“We’re not really a developer; we’re a family business,” said Bond, adding he worked with his father for some 20 years operating two nursing homes in Calgary.

Eventually learning about the former Foothills Lodge through a connection in Sundre, Bond said he originally had different plans.

“When I initially looked at the building, it was with the intent of turning it into our existing operation of long-term care (and) mental health care beds and all the staffing that goes along with that,” he said.

However, he said complications arose throughout the course of the pandemic and conversations with Alberta Health Services (AHS) raised further complications.

“As a result of sort of unnecessary architectural demands within AHS, that became cost prohibitive to keep that going forward as long-term care centre or a mental health institution,” he said.

“So, in thinking about what we were going to do with the property after we owned it for a couple of years, it occurred to me in speaking with a number of members in the community that there are other options to potentially be a very nice home.”

Citing the structure’s fairly central location within the community amid a busy downtown core, Bond added the building finds itself situated on a peaceful corner.

The design so far includes 17, one-bedroom units as well as nine studios, four of which he described as pretty large.

“It’s the best that building can be in a conservative fashion,” he said, adding he also wants to make arrangements for the public to have access to the kitchen.

“That kitchen could make 500 meals a day without a problem if it was up and running. There’s a lot of potential there,” he said.

“The idea for this building going forward, is really to be as flexible for the town as possible and hopefully used by as many people as would want to,” he said.   

“Without knocking it down, without making huge changes, it could be a very nice home and really a place that can serve a number of people.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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