Listen Live
HomeRegional NewsNewsCastlegar plans housing, health care on Pioneer Arena site

Castlegar plans housing, health care on Pioneer Arena site

A four-storey building is planned for the site of the Pioneer Arena in Castlegar with clinical spaces on the ground floor and 45 housing units on the upper floors.

The plan also calls for existing clinics to relocate into the building with additional room for allied health workers. The City of Castlegar said in a news release Tuesday it further expects to attract new healthcare professionals with the project.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed, which the city described as the “culmination of years of work” by multiple councils.

In addition to the city, which owns the land, participants are the Regional District of Central Kootenay; a local physicians group; Axis Projects, a real estate developer that will be the contractor and owner of the building; and Prima Health Cooperative, a local not-for-profit led by family practitioners that will administer the health care side of the project.

“This is an exciting project announcement for the city which sees us stepping outside of our traditional role to find a creative solution to improve access to healthcare services and ensure the mix of housing the community needs,” mayor Maria McFaddin said.

McFaddin said under this model, doctors will be able to collaborate in a modern space that frees them up to concentrate on being health care providers rather than business owners. The housing portion of the project will be a mix of market and subsidized units.

Although the concept has been in the works for a few years, Tuesday’s announcement was the first time it was been publicly discussed.

McFaddin said the memorandum lets the project concept enter the design phase, which will see the city working with physicians to decide how best to co-locate services to offer improved primary care and apply for grant funding.

“We believe this new building will improve access to family physicians and enhance the ability to attract health professionals because team-based care is a very desirable model for new physicians,” said Dr. Ellen Smart, Castlegar physician representative.

The announcement also reopens a longtime discussion about the future of Castlegar’s recreational facilities.

The Pioneer Arena, at 925 Columbia Ave., will close after after the 2023-24 season. It was built in the 1950s as the community’s first indoor ice surface and since the construction of the recreation complex in the mid-1970s, has served as a secondary ice surface. In 2016, it was marked for closure due to aging infrastructure.

A $32-million plan to add a new sheet of ice to the rec complex along with other improvements was defeated in a 2018 referendum, with the greatest opposition coming from Area I, which includes outlying communities such as Shoreacres and Glade. Residents also overwhelmingly voted down a $25-million plan for a new rink in 2010.

“With the Pioneer Arena at its end of life, it was an appropriate time to consider possible opportunities for the land,” chief administrator Chris Barlow said, adding the city-owned property is the best location for the project because it’s a flat site large enough to accommodate it and is also close to the urgent and primary care centre, emergency room, and Talarico Place, a long-term care facility.

Ice users were informed Tuesday afternoon of the plans.

RDCK community services manager Joe Chirico said they recognize the closure will be inconvenient and they will work with those groups to prepare for the 2024-25 season. The RDCK will also consult residents to “reimagine” the future of recreation in Castlegar starting early next year.

The city and RDCK say they recognize the Pioneer Arena was the result of community volunteer efforts and plan to recognize its place in local history and want to hear from people and groups who played a role in building and improving it.

The city has identified the need for another 464 housing units in the next few years to meet demand. Several other housing projects are under construction.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -
- Advertisement -

Continue Reading