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Proposed AVENS Pavilion expansion to reach council on Monday

A development permit application to expand the AVENS: A Community For Seniors with an independent and supportive living section of housing – called the AVENS Pavilion – is expected to reach city council on Monday.

The proposal is to provide 102 units with a mix of independent housing and supportive living to help address the lack of seniors residences in town.

A concept design of the main entrance for the AVENS Pavilion.
images courtesy of the City of Yellowknife

The project would be the largest expansion on the AVENS' Matonabee Street site in its history.

Daryl Dolynny, chief executive officer of AVENS, said if everything is on schedule, he hopes the facility can start accommodating residents in late 2022. He said there have been many steps to get to the development permit stage and he's looking forward to working with neighbours, as well as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Government of the Northwest Territories, who are providing funding.

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The proposed AVENS Pavilion expansion will add 102 independent and supportive living housing units for senior citizens.

"I think it's a great project and everywhere I have gone I think we have ultimately gotten support," said Dolynny. "The business community is strongly behind it and so I think it has been a win-win for everyone."

AVENS conducted a needs assessment leading up to the proposal for more long-term seniors housing and Dolynny said it was determined there's a housing deficiency of close to 500 units for older people.

"So with the 102 units, will we fix the need?  No, but we will take a large dent out of it," he said.

The overall site plan shows the footprint of the new proposed AVENS development.

Laneway concerns

Marilyn Malakoe, a neighbour, said she supports the building being constructed and the aim of meeting housing needs for seniors but, like a number of residents in the area, she's concerned about vehicular access, congestion in the neighbourhood and related public safety issues associated with the development.

She's calling for a redesign.

Currently, the project proposes using Matonabee Laneway – a narrow strip of road – instead of the complex's main 57 Street entrance from Franklin Avenue. The laneway is expected to pose problems for delivery and garbage truck entry and doesn't meet emergency access standards in the National Building Code, according to the city.

"The current design of the 2021 AVENS Pavilion appears to have sacrificed the safety and well-being of seniors and of citizens who use the surrounding neighbourhood in favour of an oversized building which attempts to accommodate too many people," Malakoe wrote to the city in a letter with several supporting co-signatories. "It should not be designated as a special care facility and needs to be redesigned with the safety of its residents at the forefront."

According to the Jan. 25 governance and priorities committee package, the city is already looking at an alternative access point to the site with the possible "introduction of a new roadway from Gitzel Street that aligns with Albatross Court. "

Based on a community session that was held on Jan. 19 and which attracted close to 20 people, Dolynny said he's looking forward to conferring with neighbours to overcome their concerns.

"We're quite happy to work with the Matonabee folks," he said of the meeting. "I thought it was great and perfect example of how we can work with neighbours because they have raised legitimate concerns. They have raised the concerns early in the process, but let's talk about it and find solutions."