Campbell River Mirror – Berwick Offers Sweet Suites

Originally published by Campbell River Mirror

J.R. Rardon

Since it opened for occupancy last October, more than 199 seniors have called Berwick by the Sea home, sweet home.

With an emphasis on “sweet”.

“This is the nicest place I’ve ever been in my whole life,” said Ellen Zapshala, sitting in the main lobby beneath a wall of huge cedar blocks as colourful fish swam languidly in a saltwater aquarium over her shoulder.

“It’s terrific,” added Harold Zapshala, her husband of 60 years. “Everything is choice.”

Following ground-breaking in spring of 2013 and a year-and-a-half of construction, Berwick by the Sea quietly began accepting residents shortly before Halloween of 2014. Its population spiked last Thursday evening as its owners, financers, contractors and Campbell River politicians and dignitaries presided over the facility’s official grand opening.

With speeches and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, the sixth property in the chain of Berwick Retirement Communities was officially unveiled to the public.

“It’s quite a turnout” said resident Dorothy Kozakowski, who originally moved to Campbell River 14 years ago to join family in the area. “It’s a wonderful place, and the people here are just wonderful. I don’t know how they find these people; they’re exceedingly nice.”

And so are the appointments. Berwick by the Sea boasts a ground-level restaurant and dining room, staffed by chefs who prepare all the residents’ meals. It also boasts the sixth floor Tyee Lounge with its views of both the ocean and the city, where food and drink services is available.

Berwick also has a gym and wellness centre with low-impact equipment, where yoga and other fitness classes are held, a lounge area with a billiards table, laundry facilities on each floor, a library, rooftop greenhouse and a 35 seat theatre that can be used for showing movies or for live presentations.

“Sometimes they have the Canucks (hockey games) or sometimes a move,” said Kozakowski. “And the food is so good. Sometimes I think that’s all we do here, is eat.”

The decor is particularly specific to Campbell River, with a mix of logging and nautical themes. Historic photos of loggers and fishermen are printed right onto cedar panels on the main floor, while the hallway leading to the Tyee Lounge – which has an actual boat suspended over its main central table – is lined with old fishing pictures.

It was designed by Campbell River native Tracy Higgins of Higgins Group Interior Design in Nanaimo.

“I know all the history of the area, so it was easy to come up with ideas,” said Higgins. “I’ve done design for all the Berwick facilities, but I wanted to take a different approach, because its in Campbell River… more like a lodge, to reflect the area.”

Gordon Denford, who has built homes in Western Canada for 50 years, created the first Berwick Retirement Community in Victoria in 1989. With his son, current CEO Chris Denford, joining as a partner in the family owned business, additional Berwick communities have been opened in Nanaimo, Comox, Kamloops, along with a second Victoria location.

Mayor Andy Adams was credited with a leading role in securing the 132-unit, six storey facility. As a councillor nine years ago he first contacted Gordon Denford, founder of the family-owned business, “and asked him what it would take to get a Berwick in Campbell River,” Adams said.

The first requirement, he discovered, was a suitable location. Two vacant lots at the corner of 16th Avenue and Shoppers Row proved perfect for both views of Georgia Strait and Quadra Island and easy access to downtown services for residents.

The $30 million complex is not to be confused with low-income seniors housing. A single-bedroom suite starts at around $2400 per month, and a variety of one- and two-bedroom options are available, along with a penthouse suite that runs $5900.

But that includes all meals, hydro, housekeeping, wireless internet in public spaces and basic needs, along with 24/7 monitoring.

“Campbell River is sure fortunate,” said Doreen Wickman, a resident whose family originally settled on Quadra Island in 1898. “I always said, all my life, I wanted to be in a seniors place on the water. As soon as my family heard about this, they said, ‘We’ve got the place for you.’”

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BCR Grand Opening Mirror Coverage