Green proponents remain optimistic

The proponents of the Cumberland Green proposal want to reward people who have reached the third stage of life with an opportunity to live in an all-inclusive retirement community on the outskirts of the village.

PHIL RILEY (left) and Leif Wadelius present $1

PHIL RILEY (left) and Leif Wadelius present $1

The proponents of the Cumberland Green proposal want to reward people who have reached the third stage of life with an opportunity to live in an all-inclusive retirement community on the outskirts of the village.

Bell Group president/CEO Dale Bellavance is optimistic that “success is around the corner,” even though it’s been two years since the project received third reading from Cumberland council.

The ‘aging-in-place’ project tailored for 55-and-older residents includes condominium and apartment buildings, a nine-hole golf course, medical services and extended-care facilities. It would cover 76 of the property’s 247 acres on Bevan Road. About 170 acres would be reforested with upwards of 76,000 native species of trees.

With commitments from local and offshore investors, Bellavance said the company is deciding which path is best for the project and the team.

“It’s looking likely that in the very near future we will be moving forward, but it is a difficult climate right now for big capital investment,” he said.

“We’ve modelled the entire footprint of the project on a European medieval village, and every one of them always had a featured promenade, a meeting place. We recognize that’s a good way to induce people to share history and talk about their lives.”

The Victoria-based Bell Group ascertained most of its information from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a group of United Kingdom humanitarians whose field of expertise is housing requirements, particularly for seniors.

“It’s apparently a premier, first-of-its-kind in the world,” Mayor Fred Bates said. “We’ve got China pretty interested. They’re looking at getting in on the financing so they can take the idea back to China.”

Bellavance confirmed China is “very interested” in the project.

“Their best estimate is that this product would work in China about five to six years from now,” he said. “China is one of the few places in the world that seniors do not hold the wealth. Their seniors are very poor, so it’s going to be up to their children to feel obligated to reward mom and dad, and that’s happening. It wasn’t long ago in Asia you never split a family up.”

Bellavance figures the project would create about 400 full-time jobs, and 300 spinoff jobs. It would take four and a half to seven years to build.

There are already people on the wait list.

“Because the site will be strata, the obligation for the village to service this property is virtually nothing,” Bellavance said. “It’s a real tax snowfall.

“More importantly, what we’re doing here is creating a project to reward seniors for having raised us as children…We’re making every effort to make sure there is space for anybody, no matter what their wealth may or may not be.”

Along with catering to the frail elderly, he said there will be opportunities for active seniors wanting to work or own a shop.

In terms of transportation, the design includes a transit link and an onsite electric bus to serve residents without a vehicle. Bell Group has appealed to the village to allow residents to license and drive electric golf carts into town.

“We’re really looking hard at how the government is going to deal with the shifting demographic,” Bellavance said, noting the worldwide seniors population will have doubled from now until 2025.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com