By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected] 

Canal Flats residents found out more about the village’s planned new affordable housing-medical technology hub project during a town hall meeting at the Civic Centre on May 17.

Village councillors and chief administrative officer/chief technology officer Richard Wayken outlined the plan for the new development, as well as the village’s other strategic priorities.

As reported in the May 16 edition of the Pioneer, the first phase of the hub will see 16 units of new housing and four new units of commercial space built at the corner of Burns Avenue and Grainger Road, next to the Headwaters Academy daycare centre. The development will include an expansion of the daycare, adding 60 more childcare spaces to Headwaters. To help this expansion, four of the 16 units will be dedicated workforce housing space for daycare staff. The remaining 12 rental units include four units of senior’s housing; four more general affordable housing units; and four units of market-rate housing.

The project is being led by the new Canal Flats Attainable Housing and Childcare Society. If all goes to plan, the first phase should be completed by September 2025. A second phase, which is currently in design, will see up to 32 additional units of rental housing and 16 additional commercial spaces. A third phase will be determined by the response and demand during the first two phases. The Headwaters Academy may also expand to two other locations.

The project will cost $50 million. Roughly 50 per cent of the first phase will be paid through grants, and the rest will be paid through private investors.

Much of that investment is linked with what village officials have termed the ‘health consortium’ – a group of more than 10 proprietary technology companies, as well as universities, architects, researchers, health leaders, housing partners and private equity partners. 

The plan envisions that some of the senior’s housing will integrate new medical technologies to enable aging in place. As part of this, Canal Flats will have a local doctor living in the community for the first time in many years. Village officials said they had initially hoped to introduce some members of the consortium during the town hall meeting, but this information is now being kept quiet until September. One company name, however — LiLo Health — appeared on an informational slide during the presentation. Wayken later described LiLo as “a key driver behind a lot of this stuff” and added that “everything that’s formed here (through the health technology hub) will be owned by our local doctor. That’s what I can say.”

An audience member — former Canal Flats councillor Marie Delorme — questioned why the names of partners and investors could not yet be disclosed.

“When Iris Energy came into the community, we knew who the principals were. So I’m just wondering why everything is hush-hush?” asked Delorme.

“Everything is not hush-hush. It’s (the health consortium) actually just forming right now,” said Wayken, adding the village had planned to have the whole consortium panel at the town hall “but the investors who are involved in this requested that we don’t, because they don’t want to give too much away” at this early stage.

Wayken had earlier in his presentation alluded to how the project was quite different than anything yet seen in Canal Flats. “As a community we need to be open to this,” he said, later adding, “don’t let different names in the community, and different approaches, scare you.”

The benefits to Canal Flats go beyond the housing units and having a doctor in town, Wayken explained, saying “it (also) means more job creation for us, it means attracting investment. It means young entrepreneurs.”