Yellowknife city council considers proposed Avens expansion

The AVENS community for seniors is looking to expand. It put forward a proposal to Yellowknife city council for a project that would create 102 new affordable housing units.

Project is 'well needed,' but may also come with challenges to road access, says senior administrative officer

An artist's rendering of the proposed Avens pavilion. It would add 102 new affordable housing units for seniors. (AVENS/City of Yellowknife)

Yellowknife city council met on Monday to consider an expansion project that would see 102 new housing units built for seniors.

The proposed AVENS pavilion is intended to fill gaps in affordable senior housing by providing a wider range of independent and supportive housing options. 

Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population, according to the government of the Northwest Territories and increasingly, seniors are wanting to remain in the Northwest Territories, but find limited options available to them.

AVENS CEO Darryl Dolynny told city council meeting the proposed expansion of its campus would diminish long waiting lists for seniors' housing and fill a gap in housing options. 

The city administration says it supports the project because it would allow seniors to live independently for as long as they'd like to, while remaining in the North. 

In October, Avens received $33.7 million from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to support the AVENS Pavilion project.

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In a press release, Ahmed Hussen, the Minister Minister of Families, Children and Social Development said that "today's announcement is one of the largest single investments in affordable housing in the Northwest Territories under the National Housing Strategy."

Concerns about road access

The senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett said that the project was "much needed. I don't think anyone can argue with that."

She added that there remained concerns from neighbours in the area about how the pavilion would be accessed by road. A few letters have been sent to the city detailing concerns about how traffic may become congested and pose safety risks.

One of the proposed road access points would be the Matonabee alleyway, which is intended to be used by residents of the pavilion. However, Hermina Joldersma, who lives nearby, says the alleyway is far too narrow to maintain additional traffic, especially for service vehicles, like fire trucks.

The proposed expansion area of the AVENS pavilion. (AVENS/City of Yellowknife)

In a council meeting, she said that the street only has room for one vehicle at a time, which could create bottlenecks and unsafe driving situations. The alleyway feeds into Franklin Avenue, right where the speed limit increases from 30 km/h to 45 km/h. 

Joldersma added that in addition to it being a busy intersection, it's also difficult to see traffic and pedestrians.

Bassi-Kellet said she's confident a viable solution can be found. She said "productive" discussions looking at different options about the road access by development officers, other departments with the city, and with AVENS.

City council will decide whether or not to approve the project on Feb. 8.

Mayor Rebecca Alty said that the proposal was still in draft form, so the first step is to gain council approval to use the building as a special care facility, then they would work through in greater detail issues that are outstanding, related to parking and road access, for example.