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Metlakatla seniors’ housing development defined by medicine wheel design

Forty-two units proposed at former King Edward school; community info session on May 15
Metlakatla Development Corporation graphic. Two two-storey buildings are shown here in the medicine wheel design. Row housing can be seen at the top right.

Relief of the seniors affordable housing crunch may finally be in sight.

The Metlakatla Development Corporation (MDC) is in the mid-stages of a re-zoning process to add 42 units of affordable 65-plus seniors housing at 700 Green St., or the site of the old King Edward school.

The architectural design of the two separate two-storey rental buildings (16 in each) and 10 units of row housing (for seniors wanting to downsize and have amenity spaces) includes Coast Tsimshian features that will add a sense of culture to the brand new buildings.

“The design is similar to a medicine wheel,” Shaun Thomas, MDC communications manager, said.

“It essentially creates [different building] arms for residents and then a central location for people to get together and socialize … It’s a really good mix of sizes and uses. We wanted to create a village feel.”

In the re-zoning application to city council, the project designers state that with the medicine wheel design, the circle is divided into four separately-coloured quadrants, which have different meanings.

The northern and white quadrant represents the themes of elders, bear, cedar, winter and wind, the eastern yellow quadrant represents children, eagle, tobacco, spring and fire, the southern green quadrant represents Earth, summer, sweetgrass, wolf and youth, and the western red quadrant represents parents, buffalo, sage, fall and water.

The wheel can frequently be seen on logos and drums in some First Nations culture and the wheel itself represents the “alignment and continuous interaction of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realities.” The circle shape details the interconnectivity of one’s being, including the connection with the natural world, the awareness of one’s individual self and the circle of knowledge we harbour in our lives, the designers explained.

“Aboriginal peoples see and respond to the world in a circular fashion and are influenced by the examples of the circles of creation in our environment,” said First Nations author, J. Dumont in “Culture, behaviour and identity of the Native person.”

Parking, secure entry courtyards, vegetable gardens and a central patio and gazebo define the space in the conceptual site plan on the two-acre area.

Funding for the elders’ village is provided through the province from an agreement with the MDC and BC Housing.

“I think the province sees, as the people in town do, that there is a need for this. There’s a need for more housing, there’s a need for more affordable housing, so it’s sort of a win-win situation,” Thomas said.

The MDC is still awaiting results of the re-zoning process but are already starting to evaluate contractor options and operational policies of the project. The housing units are available to all residents in town, with some units set aside for Metlakatla residents as they are the shareholders of the development corporation.

The MDC purchased the site in 2009 and King Edward school was demolished in 2012. In 2016, the MDC board decided to convert the site into affordable seniors housing as they found that was the community’s biggest need through their market study. The units range in size from 650 to 850 square feet, with the larger units bigger than standard due to residents with different needs.

“We wanted to have the options for the larger units, so that if people need two bedrooms, or if people need a larger space that’s available to them,” Thomas said.Additionally, the site will be developed with residents with special needs in mind, including things like elevators, parking spaces and more. A bus stop is located nearby on Seventh Avenue East. How much the seniors housing project will cost has yet to be determined.

Council gave first reading to the project in April and an information session is planned for May 15 at the Lester Centre of the Arts at 5 p.m., with a presentation by the architect at 6 p.m.

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