A new, five-storey apartment building will be constructed in the gully in front of Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens. (June 15, 2021) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A new, five-storey apartment building will be constructed in the gully in front of Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens. (June 15, 2021) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens expanding with five-storey apartment

Port Alberni-based complex will add independent living units for seniors

Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens is expanding again, this time with five-storeys of seniors’ independent living suites.

Darleen Watts, president of the Westcoast Native Healthcare Society that operates Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens and also a resident, called the moment “starting off on another adventure.”

“It makes me proud to know that everyone that has been involved in this development have all done a tremendous job,” Watts said.

Hupacasath First Nation elder Haa-yuups (Ron Hamilton) ceremoniously turned a handful of soil over to Watts to mark the beginning of the project. A small group gathered inside the doors to ?Aa Taa P’is (Top of the Hill) Apartments on the site after a rain squall forced the groundbreaking indoors.

READ: Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens opens first of two expansions in Port Alberni

This is the fourth expansion project for Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens since it opened in 1992. In February 2007, 10 assisted living units were added; 30 complex care units opened in August 2019, and the ?Aa taa p’is Apartments opened in November 2019 (20 independent living units). The five-storey apartment block unveiled on June 15 is expected to take 15 months to build.

Tsawaayuus site manager Gerri Thomas said she never envisioned the expansion that has happened at Rainbow Gardens when she first went to work there on opening day, July 2, 1992. She said she first worked there on her auntie’s advice because the facility was built to house First Nations members from the area.

“It’s always been important where we are…to be the best and to have a good reputation, and have high goals and high standards. We’ve tried to maintain that standard.”

The new building, another John Jessup and Associates project, will feature three, two-bedroom units and the rest will be one-bedroom units, Thomas explained. “We have a waiting list started.”

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said it is exciting to see more housing created for seniors. She commended the long-term members of the Westcoast Native Healthcare Society board for their vision and commitment to making that vision become reality.

Minions was invited to sit on the board while she was a member of the council that turned down rezoning for an expansion at Tsawaayuus-Rainbow Gardens a number of years ago. She said one of the requests from the board at that time was for city council to help non-profits build more affordable housing by giving them relief from development cost charges (DCCs).

Council has since created a bylaw giving non-profits a break on DCCs. “We’ve gotten seven additional projects funded by BC Housing,” she said.

A sheltered area will also be developed concurrently with the new apartments. The 18-foot-by-36-foot covered picnic shelter will include seating and space for a barbecue.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictBC HousingPort Alberniseniors housing

 

The new housing complex at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens will feature five storeys of independent seniors’ living with a total of 48 units. Plans were unveiled June 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The new housing complex at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens will feature five storeys of independent seniors’ living with a total of 48 units. Plans were unveiled June 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Tsawaayuss Rainbow Gardens is a multi-level seniors’ housing facility for First Nations and other community members from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Tsawaayuss Rainbow Gardens is a multi-level seniors’ housing facility for First Nations and other community members from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions takes a photo of the artist’s conception of the new apartment buildings so she can share it on social media. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions takes a photo of the artist’s conception of the new apartment buildings so she can share it on social media. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)