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Matonabee neighbours say laneway unsuitable for AVENS expansion

Yellowknife council discussed a proposed seniors housing facility on Monday that city officials believe will address increasing demand among an aging demographic over the next decade.

However, Matonabee Street neighbours stress that the proposed access road is currently unworkable.

Hermina Joldersma, a Granite Condos resident, left, stands with Matonabee Street neighbour Judy Murdock to show the narrow width of the Matonabee alley laneway that is being proposed as the access point for the planned Aven Pavilion.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

AVENS: A Community For Seniors submitted a development application to the city in December to expand its complex to include a 102-unit long-term supportive and independent housing section called the Aven Pavilion.

Of those residences, 92 will be one bedroom units and 10 will be two bedroom.

The development requires council's approval for a conditionally permitted special care facility and is recommended for go-ahead by city administration.

The goal is to start accommodating residents in late 2022.

The subject of contention, council heard on Monday, is a proposed narrow access road – Matonabee Laneway – that runs from Franklin Avenue to Matonabee Street behind the Granite Condos and past the proposed AVENS site.

The blasted site on the AVENS property where it is expected the AVEN Pavilion will be located.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Hermina Joldersma, a Granite Condos resident, is one neighbour in opposition to the use of the laneway. She said in a presentation that the amount of traffic that will be needed on the road will be unsuitable and unsafe for users and could likely lead to the added back up of traffic along Franklin Avenue.

She also noted the narrowness of the road makes getting in and out difficult, especially for elderly drivers. She argued that the laneway is in overall poor condition with weak road beds that don't drain water well and icy conditions in the winter.

"I'm asking council to please get this development right," Joldersma said. "It's true that neighbours are not against the principle but there are many problems which show that this development is not quite being done right. We only have one chance to get it right which is now."

Hermina Joldersma, a Granite Condos resident, says the laneway that leads to the proposed Aven Pavilion has poor drainage and a road bed in too poor condition to take on additional traffic.
photo courtesy of Hermina Joldersma

Daryl Dolynny, president and CEO of AVENS, was on hand for Monday's meeting with members of his project team, including Kelly Hayden, board member and chair of development committee; Thomas Milan, project management lead; and Kenny Ruptash, of Nahanni Construction.

Milan gave a presentation that acknowledged the difficulty with the access road, including its lack of paving, narrowness at certain points and the need to deal with vegetation and overgrowth in the area. He said that the development team is working with the city to find the best possible solution, including alternative routes, if needed.

When asked why the laneway was being used instead of using the main entrance already available, Dolynny said it would have been too costly and difficult to redesign.

The Matonabee laneway being proposed for use for the Aven Pavilion is a narrow strip that runs from Franklin Avenue in behind the Granite Condos to Matonabee Street.

"A lot of it had to do with capacity of the topography of the program," he said. "There is quite a substantial drop in elevation in that whole area so much so that when you arrive at the building, you are coming at the second level.

"We looked at designs that would accommodate but it was very cost prohibitive. It was about $10 million more to redesign a building to accommodate the parking requirements for density while also dealing with the elevation."

Meeting senior housing demand 

Milan said the need for independent and supportive seniors housing is acute.

"What we started to see was a very large gap for adequate accessible and affordable housing for seniors, and specifically in a target range of independent and supportive living units," he said. "Those we found were the highest need and that's where the pavilion has tried to target in terms of its design."

Council is scheduled to discuss the issue again on Feb. 1 and is expected to hold a final vote on the matter at the Feb. 8 regular meeting.