Work has begun to build Avens Pavilion, a seniors’ independent and supportive living facility that marks one of Yellowknife’s biggest housing projects in decades.
On Tuesday, government officials, board members of Yellowknife seniors’ group Avens, and residents put on hard hats and safety vests to watch a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site.
NWT MP Michael McLeod, health minister Julie Green and Avens chair Matthew Spence broke ground with what Avens described as its ceremonial and cultural shovel – a shovel incorporating symbols of Dene and Métis culture such as traditional beadwork, eagle feathers, and fur and hide.
“This is truly groundbreaking,” said Green. “The high cost of the North is challenging for seniors, so I’m happy to celebrate this.
“Our population is ageing, the demand for housing is great and this project is an example of what can happen when people come together to offer creative ideas as solutions.”
The facility, due to open in 2023, will offer 92 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units at what Avens says is an affordable cost by the standards of Yellowknife’s market. Expected monthly rent for an Avens Pavilion unit, based on the current market, was quoted at $1,213 for a one-bed unit and $1,395 for a two-bed unit at a public meeting last month.
The project has been in the works since early 2013, though six years were needed for Avens and the NWT government to agree on a concept that would best address the lack of housing for the territory’s seniors..
“In order to best meet the GNWT’s goals, Avens decided it would focus on the high demand for independent supportive living for NWT seniors,” Avens chief executive Daryl Dolynny said.
“My entire career [has been] dedicated to improving Yellowknife, and for the first time I feel like we’ve gained ground in doing something very positive.
“We put action to action, not just an action plan. It means a lot. It means everything.”
Dolynny said other companies and organizations around the NWT are now looking to learn lessons from the Avens Pavilion project, which he hopes will be “contagious” and inspire similar housing elsewhere.
“We know that this doesn’t fix the problem,” he said. “One hundred and two units is not going to fix our housing situation. But it is going to put a dent in it.”