ZEST Communities is set to begin phase one of its ambitious redevelopment of The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills, a Hamilton, Ont. community for people aged 55 and up.
South Mountain Inc. (which has changed its name to ZEST) acquired the 114-acre property at the southeast corner of Garth Street and Rymal Road West from St. Elizabeth Home Society in February 2014. The new ownership group established a not-for-profit organization called NovaCore Retirement Communities Association to assume ongoing management.
“Since acquiring the property, ZEST Communities and NovaCore have assembled a comprehensive development team comprised of leading experts in planning, engineering, architecture, design and seniors’ housing,” ZEST president Tony DiFruscio told RENX. “Collectively, this team has worked diligently with the owners to create a new vision for St. Elizabeth Village and retirement housing in Ontario.”
ZEST has retained the services of: Zock & Associates (1994) Inc. as project manager and life-lease consultant; FORREC Architects for master planning; Reinders + Rieder Ltd. as project architect for Upper Mill Pond; and Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. as construction manager.
The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills
The site, formerly known as St. Elizabeth Village, has been rebranded The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills. It’s home to approximately 1,000 residents and includes:
* 570 life-lease townhouses and apartments from 650 to 2,500 square feet;
* Elizabeth Retirement Residence, a six-storey, 100-bed independent and assisted living building;
* the four-storey Village Centre commercial and retail building;
Once the new developments are completed, The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills will offer up to 1,500 new residential infill units and 40,000 square feet of local commercial infill. There will be several new clubhouses and amenities for the anticipated 3,000 residents.
Exterior and interior renovations to the 570 existing residences are underway. They take current and future needs of residents into consideration by incorporating such features as wider doorways, smart-height-positioned light switches and receptacles, and one-piece walk-in showers.
“Interior garden home renovations and improvements include revisions to the unit layout and a comprehensive upgrade of all building components,” said DiFruscio. “The homes are being completely remodelled with contemporary and high-quality finishes.”
Upper Mill Pond
Construction of the first phase, called Upper Mill Pond, will begin in July with a five-storey, 76-unit life-lease apartment building adjacent to the Trillium Clubhouse. The suites will range from 721 to 1,328 square feet.
“Suites range in price by size, currently starting at $371,000 for a large one-bedroom, including underground parking, storage locker and HST,” DiFruscio told RENX.
This phase will also involve construction of a new health and fitness centre with indoor hot tub and swimming pool, private patio, change rooms, sauna, a gym, and a dance and movement studio.
The centre’s other amenities include secure underground parking, storage lockers, an indoor car wash area, a special events room with a catering kitchen, a library/lounge with café and juice bar, and one guest suite to accommodate overnight visitors.
Completion and occupancy are targeted for the spring of 2021.
Town Square, with its approximately 40,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, will replace the existing 30,000-square-foot Village Centre. It will include three- to eight-storey buildings with a total of 250 to 450 apartments above ground-floor retail and commercial spaces.
The anticipated construction start of this phase is 2021.
“This downtown area will be the hub of programmed resident activities and community events, and will include an outdoor stage for concerts, entertainment and events,” said DiFruscio. “In addition, the Town Square will offer a variety of compatible, small-scale retail and commercial uses intended to support the residents and adjacent community.
“The vision for the Town Square is to create a destination where residents and the surrounding community can come and enjoy a variety of dining, entertainment and unique retail experiences. The vision doesn’t include any major retail anchors or components found in a typical retail and commercial environment.”
Other future development plans
The third phase will be the development of several low- to mid-rise life-lease apartment buildings totalling approximately 800 to 900 units, as well as additional recreational and amenity spaces. The anticipated construction start for that is still five to seven years away.
DiFruscio said the new buildings will feature a variety of architectural styles, while the development will take advantage of nearly 20 acres of existing ponds, mature landscaping and vegetation.
“This natural oasis will be enhanced with the addition of walking trails, gazebos, boardwalks and covered bridges,” he said.
St. Elizabeth Retirement Residence, offering independent and assisted living services, will be expanded by 100 beds and incorporate new amenities for residents, according to Difruscio.
ZEST’s market value life lease model
When ZEST acquired St. Elizabeth Village, all home units were offered under a declining balance life-lease model.
Residents would pre-pay based on their expected life expectancy in the units. The pre-payment would devalue each year until there was no residual amount owing.
ZEST has since adopted a market value life-lease model. Residents and purchasers now retain the equity growth in their units and receive market value for them when they vacate, similar to traditional real estate.
Under this plan, the owner of the property retains title and ownership while residents purchase a life-lease interest in their units. Residents have exclusive use of their units for their lifetime, shared use of all common areas and facilities, and many of the same benefits of condominium ownership.
Residents pay a monthly occupancy fee to cover costs including maintenance, management, insurance and contributions to a reserve fund.
Life-lease allows control of residents’ age
The life-lease interest can pass to residents’ families upon death and be held in perpetuity.
“The life-lease model allows ZEST to control age and maintain Upper Mill Pond for individuals 55 years of age and older,” said DiFruscio. “Condominium legislation does not permit such age limits, even if positively motivated, and rental accommodation can only be age-exclusive for those 65 years of age and older.
“There are currently 150 life-lease projects operating in Ontario, representing some 12,000 units. This model has proven to be the best tenure form for both the sponsor and the mature adult and senior purchasers and residents.”
The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills is, currently, the sole focus for ZEST.
“ZEST does not currently own any other properties,” said DiFruscio. “We are actively searching to expand geographically, but our main priority is the Upper Mill Pond development.”