There could soon be a place for people who have spent their entire lives on ranches, farms and acreages to enjoy retirement without having to give up the country lifestyle.
Hunt Coulee Village is a $20-million development proposed for 18 hectares of pristine, rolling pastureland between Bearspaw and Lochend roads on Highway 567 located just northwest of Calgary.
It’s the vision of local seniors who can't imagine being forced to move into a town or city when they can no longer manage their land.
"It's a leading-edge development in Alberta," said Lori Kovacs, executive director of Communities Development Society — the non-profit group behind the project.
"It's the first one being planned by and for rural seniors who want to continue to live in a rural setting, and it also incorporates the rural values and characteristics that you would find in a community."
The village is designed to be a low density, clustered residential development for the 55-plus crowd with a mix of townhouses and cottage style single-family homes.
The plan calls for 120 units, with 60 homes to be built in the first phase.
Programs and services such as home visitation, housekeeping and medical services will be available, with an assisted living facility to come in a later phase.
A big red barn will serve as gathering place for residents and their families, and a greenhouse and woodworking shop will give the seniors a chance to participate in activities they are used to.
"It's a much-needed facility," said advisory committee member Phil Unland. "There's a big gap right now for rural folk to be able to stay in their community as they age."
Land donated by local family
The land was donated by Ruth Hunt, who moved to the Lochend area with her husband and children in 1946.
She was actively involved in the planning of Hunt Coulee Village right up until the day she died in 2011.
"That was one of the last things she said to me in the hospital," her daughter Kay Smith said. "She said somehow, this has just got to work."
Smith still lives in the area with her husband and says her whole family is very supportive of the project.
She said she can't imagine having to move into a busy urban centre after spending most of her life in the country.
"The thing is, the places in cities and towns are full anyway, there's no room. We need room for rural people who want to live in a quiet area out of towns and cities," she said.
Approvals still needed
The project is still weaving its way through the approval process with Rocky View County.
There are studies to complete and details to be worked out, but committee members are confident Hunt Coulee Village will be built.
"I think we're past the vision stage," said Unland, who has been working on the project for nearly a decade.
"We know what we want to do, what we have to do, we just need the funding."
Right now, the committee is looking for investors and partners to help with the $500,000 cost of pre-development studies.
The goal is to start construction on the site in June 2015 and have seniors moving in by the summer of 2016.
Lots are not available for purchase yet, but people can be placed on a priority list.
Roughly half of the units are already spoken for, committee members say.
Exact pricing has not yet been set, but the expected range for single-family homes is $446,000 to $499,000. Townhouses are anticipated to cost between $416,000 to $450,000.