Plans are underway to make changes to the old Ponoka hospital.
A public hearing has been set for Sept. 24 after town councillors approved first reading to reclassify the property to high density residential (R4) and low density residential R2 from institutional and public use. The old hospital building is proposed to remain for the time being.
The plan was presented by Cory Hansen on behalf of the Envirotrust Research Foundation, owned by Erick Schmidt. The proposal is a three-phase plan for R4 development along 51 Street and R2 development along 57 Avenue, explained Hanson.
Coun. Rick Bonnett asked when the project would be complete. “How is your planning going there?”
Phase 2 is dependent on the sales of condominium units in phase 1.
“Phase 1 is looking at two to three years away…Depending on how well that one sells we’re looking at another two years beyond that,” explained Hansen.
Mayor Larry Henkelman stepped in to help explain that phase 1 plans for a 32-unit condominium for seniors’ housing and the second phase is really dependent on sales and public input. “It would depend on the development and how rapidly they’re accepted into our community.”
Coun. Doug Gill asked if the foundation would consider starting the third phase before the second, which would redevelop the old building, if the public’s response is not favourable to it. “If you have an open house meeting and people are interested, that might be one of the questions asked.”
“We recognize that that’s important to touch on,” replied Hansen.
The foundation plans to build an architectural fence around the old hospital and provide some pleasing landscaping to the property in the interim. Suites would have en-suites and a shared bathroom for those en-suites, added Hansen.
Henkelman explained there is potential for rearranging the stages, especially if government funding should come through. The mayor said in an interview he was eager to see the project move forward as he approached the foundation some months ago on the idea. “I’ve been working with these guys for eight months or so.”
The old hospital has been sitting in the same state since it was closed in 1987 and some of the furniture from that time remains in the building. Schmidt said in an interview about some of his plans for the building. “I was always hopeful that it could be used for some public purpose.”
But as the health regions have changed over time, securing provincial funding for the building has become a challenge. Schmidt still feels the building is worth the investment. “It’s built like a tank.”
He has shouldered the cost of upkeep for the last 10 years and looks forward to the public hearing and being able to speak with residents.
“We’re pleased because it was a very positive response,” added Schmidt.
If the plans are approved he intends to start building next spring.