MONTREAL – Construction on a $26.5-million affordable housing project for low-income seniors in Montreal, long planned by B’nai Brith Canada, is expected to begin in September.
The apartment building in Côte St. Luc will have 129 units that will be home to up to 141 people who qualify for subsidized housing for autonomous seniors under provincial criteria.
The fundraising campaign for Château B’nai Brith was officially launched on June 14 with the announcement that Eric Bissell, lifetime honorary president of B’nai Brith, and his family have made a $1-million donation to the project.
Bissell is president of Castleton Financial Ltd., a Montreal-based private mortgage lender, of which his son Marc is also a principal.
Close to $2 million from various other private sources has also been raised toward the $3-million goal, said campaign chair Allen Quallenberg.
The remainder of the cost is being contributed by government: a $15-million grant from Quebec and $8 million in mortgage guarantees from the province and the federal government.
The Château is expected to be completed by the fall of 2017.
This is the second subsidized seniors residence constructed by the organization in Montreal. B’nai Brith House, also in Côte St. Luc, which opened a decade ago, has 95 units, for which there is always a wait list.
As Marc Bissell and Quallenberg commented, this type of housing is needed more than ever after the closure this year of Manoir Montefiore and the announcement of the planned closure of Castel Royal next year, both privately owned kosher seniors residences in Côte St. Luc. Together, they represent the loss of some 380 units, although they rent for much more than the B’nai Brith residences.
“We all know the crisis in seniors housing,” Bissell said. “The timing could not be more perfect.”
B’nai Brith also points to the rapid aging of the Montreal Jewish community, and the fact that a high percentage of its elderly are below or near the poverty level.
The seven-storey Château, like the first residence, will be located on Côte St. Luc Road, but further west, near the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre. The triangular tract of land bordering the Canadian Pacific railway, was purchased by B’nai Brith from the City of Côte St. Luc.
B’nai Brith regional director Harvey Levine said the names of people interested in becoming tenants are being taken now and there is already a list of over 250.
At some point in the future, application forms will be sent out. An independent committee and a government agency will review the applications and decide on who will be accepted, he said.
“After the Castel announced it was closing, we received panicked calls,” said Levine.
Autonomous means residents can live on their own – no nursing care is provided. Levine said that they may have minor impairments, such as needing to walk with a cane or having hearing difficulties.
Daily lunches will be provided in a common dining hall (each unit will have a kitchenette) and there will be plenty of organized activities, he said.
Because of the public funding, the residences are open to everyone, he said, and there are non-Jews at B’nai Brith House, but interest is fairly low outside the community because it is known as a Jewish residence.
Not only is the Château going to be bigger, it is going to be better, said project manager Noam Schnitzer of Renwick Development.
The first residence was built at about half the cost of this one, and after only 11 years, is already in need of renovation, he said. “This past year alone, a million dollars of work has gone into the building, repointing bricks, [fixing] leaking windows.”
Schnitzer said the Château, designed by architect Karl Fisher, will be built to higher standards and should need no major capital work for 50 years as a result of the use of durable materials and efficient energy systems.
He believes the residence will actually generate revenue for B’nai Brith, rather than be a financial burden.
Tenders for construction were to be called June 20.
Some of the features of the L-shaped building will be a glass-walled pavilion on the ground floor for programming, high ceilings and large windows in the units, and a landscaped garden.
Schnitzer stressed that much attention is being paid to security. Côte St. Luc city council had a number of reservations initially about the project due to the proximity to the train tracks. Those concerns have been addressed, said Schnitzer.
The “mitigating” features include an eight-foot berm and wall between the building and the rail line. Residents will also be shielded from the noise and vibrations of trains by special windows and doors, and an emergency evacuation route via the shopping centre parking lot has been mapped.
Côte St. Luc councillor Dida Berku, who at first voted against the rezoning bylaw green-lighting the project because of her fears for the project’s location, attended the launch and offered her and the entire council’s full support.
“Not only are the concerns being met, but have been overcome in a brilliant way,” she said. “This is a state-of-the-art project.”