By Steve Hubrecht 

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Canal Flats residents will get to hear more about an ambitious new development that could transform the village.

The Headwaters Academy day care centre in Canal Flats opened in early 2023 on the otherwise vacant lot at the corner of Burns Avenue and Grainger Road. A few months later the Village of Canal Flats purchased three acres (1.2 hectares) of land adjacent to the day care, with plans to expand the day care, and to create affordable housing there. The new Canal Flats Attainable Housing and Childcare Society was formed to help steer these efforts.

The society, village officials and other representatives will unveil their plans for the space during a town hall meeting this coming Friday, May 17.

The affordable housing development plan has grown in scope, and now encompasses an expanded day care, workforce housing, affordable housing, commercial space, and senior’s housing with groundbreaking integrated medical technology to enable aging in the place.

Canal Flats chief administrative officer and chief technology officer Richard Wayken explained that it is a fairly complex project and that “Canal Flats has not seen a development of this size in many years.” At heart “it is still an affordable housing project but has commercial elements as well,” he said.

The idea for a multi-faceted housing project came because the issues of affordable housing, childcare and better medical care — as well as longer term goals of resident retention, resident attraction, and business attraction — are often interlinked, outlined Wayken.

The village opened a medical clinic, for instance, but doesn’t have a medical doctor living in the community, he noted. “So how do we tackle the lack of a medical doctor in the community?” One way is by turning the village into a medical technology and innovation hub, by incorporating cutting edge medical technology into senior’s housing, he explained. That can attract technology companies as well as doctors.

In other words, the housing development is an integrated solution to the integrated issues facing the village. Or as Wayken put it: “why not tie it all together?”

And the idea has attracted the interest of more than 10 proprietary technology companies, as well as universities, architects, researchers, health leaders, housing partners and private equity partners. The names of the health companies are being kept quiet for now, but some members of what village officials have termed ‘the health consortium’ will be introduced at the town hall meeting.


In total, this initial phase of housing development will see 16 units of housing created —  in two fourplexes and one eightplex. The expanded Headwaters Academy day care space will be on the bottom floor of one of the fourplexes, and commercial space will take up the bottom floor of the other fourplex. The specific numbers of housing units being outfitted with technology is not being disclosed just yet.

The next phase of the development could see up to 32 additional units of housing added at a later date.

“It’s probably the largest innovation or technology project the Columbia Valley has seen,” said Wayken, adding it could even make the village a leader on a provincial scale.

The plan is to build the development without putting any cost on taxpayers, funding it instead through private investment, added Wayken.

The town hall event will also see Canal Flats officials outline the village’s strategic priorities and budget for 2024. Other notable projects include finishing paving the Shore to Shore trail, the village’s new age-friendly coordinator position, and the Helping Hands program (which is a part of FireSmart).

“The budget and strategic plan are pivotal elements of our mission, driving this town hall meeting to ensure our community and neighbouring areas are well informed of our upcoming projects and focal areas,” said Canal Flats Mayor Mark Doherty in a press release. “The Attainable Housing Society’s ongoing contributions to Headwaters Academy are crucial as we enter phase two, which promises to be as transformative as its inception. Leading the pilot for the new health program is not only an honour but a testament to Canal Flats’ role as a beacon of innovation in the valley, offering impactful resources to our residents.”

Wayken added: “Healthcare, housing, and affordability are topics at everyone’s table across Canada. On May 17 the community will have the opportunity to see what is possible in Canal Flats. Council has enabled staff to take a new approach and reinvent Canal Flats. We will no longer be watching from the sidelines but will take bold steps to lead Canal Flats into the future. If you’re not coming to this event, you are missing out.”

The meeting on May 17 will be at Canal Flats Civic Centre, starting at 10 a.m. For those unable to attend, information about the strategic plan and the housing development will later be posted to the village website, and details will be available in the village’s budget booklet.