Lions take pride in af­ford­able hous­ing project

Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - CLAIRE YOUNG

When Wing-kun Tam be­came a mem­ber of the Lions Club in 1981 in Hong Kong, one of his first tasks was to or­ga­nize thank-you presents for se­niors the club was tak­ing on a cruise.

They weren’t lav­ish presents, but the plea­sure they gave the se­niors and their grat­i­tude in re­ceiv­ing the gifts deeply moved Tam.

Now, as the pres­i­dent of Lions Clubs In­ter­na­tional, Tam re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to visit Cal­gary and tour the Lions Vil­lage se­niors af­ford­able hous­ing project un­der con­struc­tion. His ex­cite­ment about the project was pro­found.

“The Lions in Cal­gary are also sup­port­ing the el­der­lies,” Tam says. “It is some­thing that is giv­ing them a small gift, but is giv­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to stay in a nice place for the rest of their lives and know that we are tak­ing care of them. This is a very im­por­tant project.”

When the Lions de­cide to take on a project, they pounce on it.

Two years ago, the Lions Club of Cal­gary de­cided to turn their at­ten­tion to much-needed af­ford­able se­niors hous­ing in Cal­gary.

It opted to trans­form the 16 small grey bun­ga­lows on the 0.6-hectare (1.51-acre) tri­an­gle of land they op­er­ated at the in­ter­sec­tion of Crowchild Trail and Kens­ing­ton Road N.W. into a four-storey, 91,000-square foot condo build­ing.

The 90 units will house up to 130 res­i­dents, a big in­crease on the 30 pre­vi­ous tenants.

“The in­spi­ra­tion came from the fact that the prop­erty was com­pletely un­der­uti­lized. We wanted to serve more peo­ple,” says Otto Silzer, project co-chair­man for the Cal­gary Lions Club, of the $20-mil­lion project.

The prop­erty was do­nated to the Lions Club in 1958.

“We will be 14 months from the time of start of con­struc­tion to oc­cu­pancy — a fab­u­lous time­line,” says Silzer.

The Lions Club of Cal­gary re­ceived project ap­proval from the City of Cal­gary in 2010, and res­i­dents should be mov­ing in this fall.

The club ap­plied for, and re­ceived fund­ing from, the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, as well putting in its own funds.

De­signed by Norr Ar­chi­tects and Plan­ners, the build­ing will have 33 one-be­d­room and 48 two-be­d­room suites for low-medium in­come se­niors who are functionally in­de­pen­dent.

There will be nine stu­dio apart­ments for home­less se­niors, one of which is a corner unit and has mag­nif­i­cent views over­look­ing the Bow River in two di­rec­tions.

“This apart­ment would cost mil­lions of Hong Kong dol­lars with this view,” Tam com­mented as he toured this suite, adding that it warmed his heart to see that it will be en­joyed by se­niors.

The 10 suites on the ground level will be bar­rier-free, and res­i­dents will have ac­cess to el­e­va­tors, as well as stairs to all floors.

Each apart­ment has a kitchen and a three-piece bathroom.

The build­ing has lounge ar­eas, in­clud­ing fire­places, for so­cial­iz­ing with friends and neigh­bours, and laun­dry is avail­able on each level.

Lions Vil­lage max­i­mizes its lo­ca­tion across from the Bow River and greenery of Ed­wor­thy Park; the win­dows are large and low, tak­ing up most of the walls in the great rooms and bed­rooms.

Sur­face park­ing will be limited, but the lo­ca­tion is close to public trans­porta­tion.

Cen­tron Group of Com­pa­nies is the project’s de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion contractor.

“Ev­ery­one on site feels a con­nec­tion with the Lions Club,” says Cole Har­ris, pres­i­dent of Cen­tron.

“We’ve cut three months off this project through the pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes.”

An in­dus­trial kitchen will be used by the Lions Club and also be avail­able for so­cial events, though not for daily food ser­vices for the res­i­dents.

The fa­cil­ity will of­fer up-to­date ser­vices and sup­ports for se­niors.

Lions Vil­lage will be jointly op­er­ated by the Lions Club of Cal­gary and Bethany Care So­ci­ety.

Bethany Care has a long his­tory of pro­vid­ing long-term care, sup­port­ive liv­ing and in­de­pen­dent hous­ing for se­niors in Al­berta.

As part of his visit, Tam planted a pa­per birch tree in front of Lions Vil­lage.

When he be­came pres­i­dent, he an­nounced a mis­sion to plant one mil­lion trees.

The pro­gram has been so suc­cess­ful that more than 10 mil­lion trees have been planted.

“I love all trees, es­pe­cially the maple and I’m not just say­ing that be­cause I’m in Canada,” says Tam, adding he has two maples at his home in Hong Kong, and rel­ishes watch­ing them change colour over the sea­sons.

The res­i­dents of Lions Vil­lage will be able to en­joy the birch’s shade in the sum­mer and its colour­ful dis­play come fall, a small present from a Lion to a se­nior.

calgaryherald.com

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