Construction is expected to begin this spring on a unique $310-million Legion Veterans Village (LVV) complex in Surrey, B.C., that will feature a massive new Legion branch along with housing and treatment and recreation facilities dedicated to serving the needs of Canada’s veterans and first responders.
The initial phase of the project entails building a $110-million, 21-storey mixed-use building with 48 affordable housing units for veterans and their families and 148 market housing units.
The tower will also include a 10,500-square-foot Legion space, a Centre of Excellence in PTSD and Mental Health and an Innovative Centre for Rehabilitation that will provide rehabilitation services for veterans.
The second phase will cost about $200 million and involves building a 26-storey tower that will contain 325 market housing units.
This gives the redevelopment a total of 473 market homes.
The new project, designed by Wensley Architecture Ltd., will replace Whalley Legion Branch 229. The original architectural concept for the project was inspired by the Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial in France that is dedicated to the memory of Canadian soldiers who served in the First World War.
David Whittier, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command, which is partnering with developer Lark Group on the project, said he’s pleased the shovels will soon be in the ground.
“From a Legion perspective, this project is exciting, because it shows how the Legion, industry and government can work together to not only provide a stable future for a branch, but to provide mental health services and affordable, accessible housing for veterans and others in need,” he said.
Both phases of the project were unanimously approved by Surrey City Council at a meeting Oct. 1. Demolition of the Whalley Legion will start in March and phase one of the project is expected to be completed in February 2022. Occupancy is expected shortly after that.
Lark Group and the Legion are now working to secure a temporary space for the Legion to continue operating during construction of the new facilities.
Whittier said the project is important because it will house Canada’s first Centre of Excellence that focuses on PTSD and mental health issues and delivering help for veterans and first responders with problems.
Renderings of the project show a three-storey building with the towers on either side. Units in the towers have unobstructed views of the surrounding area.
Rowena Rizzotti, vice-president of health care and innovation for Lark Group, said the two buildings are symbiotic, as the value generated by the market housing project allows development of the veterans’ project.
“The Veterans Village development will be a catalyst for change in the area, which is situated between two rapidly developing nodes within the city,” she said. “The project benefits from being within walking distance of amenities, recreation facilities, SkyTrain station and city hall.”
The original rendering for the village was designed by architect Michael Green of Vancouver who wanted to incorporate the symbolism of the Vimy Memorial in France into the project.
Rizzotti said the design team was faced with several challenges in coming up with plans for the project, as there were community planning rules that restricted height of the structures, yet it wanted to create a development that would act as a nucleus for future revitalization and developments.
“The development responds in a meaningful way in all these areas,” she said, “as well as to create a highly liveable housing option for residents of North Surrey.”
The initial vision of the project proposed in 2015 was for a landmark tower, but it was changed in 2016 and redesigned by Wensley Architecture – with a significant housing component added to the redevelopment to improve the proceeds and support the institutional facility, Legion and supportive housing.
“We need to ensure it was feasible and, importantly, affordable for agencies to operate in a Class A building and that it would become a replicable model that other Legions across the country could consider as they look at the future needs in their local communities.”
Rizzotti said the intent is to create a true centre of excellence for veterans, first responders and their families. The one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose project is envisioned to be the first of many such projects across Canada.
A key priority of the centre will be the integrated delivery of a continuum of programs and services. Veterans and first responders will also contribute innovative research towards new practices, interventions and technologies, supporting multiple disciplines in engineering, rehabilitation, mental health and advancements in neuroscience.
Rizzotti said pre-sales for residential units in the first tower will start in April. Start of construction on the second tower will be assessed once pre-sales on the first phase have begun.
A team of companies is collaborating on the project. In addition to Lark Group and Wensley Architecture, the team consists of structural engineer Bryson Markulin Zickmantel, mechanical engineer Williams Engineer, and electrical engineer Colwin Electric. The project has not yet gone to tender for trade selections.