New lease on life for old Rivier building

Old Rivier Academy set to become the new home of Metis-Nation Saskatchewan's Northern Hub (Daily Herald File Photo)

The former home of Rivier Academy could have new tenants in the future.

On Monday, Saint Joseph Developments outlined plans to convert the building, located at 1405 Bishop Pascal Place, into a 104-suite independent seniors’ apartment project. The plan also includes a 45-space childcare centre, commercial leasing space on the ground floor, and a three-year agreement to run the Marion Aquatics Centre in partnership with the city.

Saint Joseph Developments president Vincent Detillieux said their research shows a significant lack of affordable housing for Prince Albert seniors, and they’re looking to close the gap.

“It is clear that quality housing for seniors to live independently is scarce,” Detillieux said during a presentation to city council on Monday. “The current housing stock has a long waiting list, or is not the quality our seniors are so actively seeing.”

However, adding more units to the seniors’ housing market isn’t the only issue driving the development. The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary continue to live in the building following Rivier’s closure in 2016. They say they have no desire to watch the building crumble from lack of use, or see it torn down like nearby Holy Family Hospital was roughly a decade ago.

Detillieux said the development will provide meaningful, long-term benefits while preserving an important building.

“The objective is to provide a lasting legacy for the community of Prince Albert, and to meet the continued needs of the sisters through a redevelopment of the building and grounds,” he explained.

There are three phases to the Saint Joseph Development, with the first set to take place as soon as the city gives final approval. On Monday, council gave a vote of confidence to the project by passing first reading of an Institutional Zone bylaw amendment, with nearly all councillors expressing enthusiastic support.

According to a report from the city’s planning department, Saint Joseph still needs approval on a number of applications and permits, including a building permit and business license. The report’s author wrote that there were no problems or concerns with the current application, although some unknown issues may come up later simply due to the complexity of the project.

Saint Joseph plans to keep much of the building’s exterior infrastructure while remodeling the inside. The 43 apartments built in the development’s first stage will be roughly 600 to 800 square feet on average. The plan calls for the suites to include laundry and independent kitchens. The building will also receive a few mechanical upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

The development is expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million.

Marion Aquatics

Saint Joseph Developments has agreed to run Marion Aquatics Pool in partnership with the city in the short-term, but the long-term future is less clear.

Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller raised the issue on Monday, asking Detillieux if they’d be willing to operate the pool independently after three years.

He said it doesn’t make financial sense to run the pool independently at this point, but also acknowledged that things could change over the next few years.

“We haven’t had time to operate the pool to see the financial model of it, but based upon how the sisters have operated for 40 years, a partnership is needed to maintain this,” Detillieux explained. “With the hours of operation that it requires, unless we reduce the public hours or even the public availability, we’d need a partnership.”