Qualicum Beach OKs Berwick Retirement Community


Originally published by the Times Colonist.

Darron Kloster / Times Colonist

FEBRUARY 28, 2017 09:41 PM

Excavation could start as early as April on the Denford Group’s seventh Berwick House retirement community.

Qualicum Beach council Monday night voted 4-1 in favour of the $25 million project that will feature 94 suites in a building that is designed to look like a stately English manor.

“We are very pleased … it’s been a bit of a long haul to get to this point,” said Gordon Denford, founder of Berwick House.

Denford bought the site, which had been vacant for nearly three decades, in 2015. He said he is anxious to get started on the project.

The company was so keen to start work on excavating before the tourist season arrives in Qualicum Beach this summer that it got ahead of itself a bit.

“We have working drawings 80 per cent complete, and that was a big gamble on our part as we had no assurances this would be accepted other than the fact we knew we had public acceptance,” he said.

After a series of public meetings, Denford said they had more than 130 people sign up wanting a space in the new community.

With drawings almost complete, Denford said they are nearly ready to sit down and work with the planning department. He said they hope to start excavating the site in late April, which could mean easing the amount of truck traffic through the town centre during the peak of the tourist season.

The quick start would also let them aim for a completion date in the fall of 2018, and get them ahead of other local projects.

“I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to get shovels in the ground quickly,” Denford said

Denford noted with it now being more difficult to get skilled trades lined up, he would like to be able to get firm commitments from trades as soon as possible before they are signed up for other work.

The Qualicum Beach project is Berwick’s smallest to date, but it will include many of the signature features that are present in its other communities, such as pub-style lounges, bistros, theatres, libraries and fitness centres.

The Denfords have pledged this project will be built to suit the town,and is being described within the company as “arts and crafts, but timeless.”

The design calls for a rooftop conservatory and lounge, with a wrap-around patio. “We were aware of the expectations of Qualicum Beach people, that they want this to reflect their village,” said Denford.

When built, the project is expected to employ 14 full-time and 36 part-time people, and the economic impact could be as much as $3.2 million annually as a result of taxes, wages and the spending of its residents and their visitors.

Berwick has two retirement communities in Victoria and one in Comox, Nanaimo, Campbell River and Kamloops.