The acquisition of the current Extendicare Kingston site on Queen Mary Road was a move to continue the expansion of the City’s “supportive transitional housing” supply, according to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the City of Kingston.
As is often the case with property acquisitions, the negotiations of the deal took place in closed sessions of Kingston City Council, with the sale finalized at the last meeting of Council in 2023 on December 19, CAO Lanie Hurdle told Kingstonist in an interview on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. But the process of those negotiations began about a year earlier, when the City was approached by Extendicare about the property.
As Kingstonist readers may recall, Extendicare Kingston is moving to a new, larger facility, with the ground breaking ceremony for that project having taken place in July 2021. The new Extendicare Kingston will be located tucked behind the RioCan Centre, just east of the intersection of Gardiners Road and Taylor-Kidd Boulevard on Demers Avenue. That move, which is anticipated to take place in the early summer of 2024, will see Extendicare Kingston increase the number of beds it has to offer by 42, for a total capacity of 192 beds.
“When construction is complete in the summer, the new Extendicare long-term care home in Kingston located at 1306 Demers Avenue will welcome all current residents from the existing Extendicare Kingston and an additional 69 seniors awaiting long-term care in the region, to accommodate a total of 192 residents,” the company said in a statement to Kingstonist on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.
“The current building has been a beloved home to our residents and their families for 50 years. After our residents are comfortably settled in their new home, we are pleased that the existing property will continue to serve the people of Kingston for years to come.”
So, what will become of the 150-bed capacity former Extendicare building? It was that question that brought the organization to the City of Kingston in the first place, Hurdle explained.
“They wanted to approach the City before they put it on the market, because they also knew that the City had been actively looking for and purchasing different properties for transitional supportive housing,” said Hurdle, pointing to the City’s acquisition of 113 Lower Union Street which, through support from Council and the City, became Tsi Niwakenonhsote [Gee nee-wa-gay-new-so-day]: “A place to call home,” run by Tipi Moza (which opened in June 2022), as well as the City’s purchase of 206 Concession Street, which Council voted in favour of funding in May 2023.
Hurdle shared that the Concession Street location is now home to “stabilization beds” run by Addictions and Mental Health Services of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (AMHS-KFLA), which offers other services out of the location.
“So [Extendicare] approached us because they felt that the property… had some potential. And we agreed,” said Hurdle.
What exactly was it about the property that made it attractive to the City? Hurdle explained that not only is the address already designed with multiple private rooms and common spaces, meaning there will be limited work to do to convert it into supportive transitional housing, but it also has potential for growth in the future, and it is currently zoned to allow for the delivery of health-care services at the facility.
Hurdle said that, because the negotiations with Extendicare were private up to the point the sale was finalized — which she underscored is a common practice for municipalities acquiring property — the City was not able to discuss any possible plans for the property with their service delivery partners. It is for that reason, Hurdle said, that the City has not made any plans public: they don’t exist yet.
“What would we say?” Hurdle asked with a laugh, noting that the City is now engaging in conversations with its service provider partners to look into possible models for the 309 Queen Mary Road location. Once that process is complete, City staff will bring forward the ideas created to City Council for approval, the CAO noted.
However, due to reports from other media outlets, a number of Kingstonians are already convinced that plans are in place for the Extendicare Kingston property. Across social media and by email and phone calls, Kingstonist received a number of inquiries about why the Integrated Care Hub (ICH), which is currently located on Montreal Street, is moving to the Queen Mary Road address without any public consultation having taken place.
The short answer? It’s not, according to Hurdle. She explained that the City of Kingston doesn’t even hold the lease for the property the ICH operates from anymore; AMHS-KFLA operates the ICH in partnership with Trellis HIV & Community Care. While the lease at the current ICH location is set to expire in 2024, Hurdle said she couldn’t speak to where the ICH might move to.
Asked which service provider partners the City is likely to engage in discussions with regarding the operations of its newly acquired facility, Hurdle pointed to AMHS-KFLA, Lionhearts Inc., Home Base Housing, Providence Care, and KFL&A Public Health, “because of that ability to provide a different kind of service at this location that we don’t have elsewhere in any of our transitional housing.”
Hurdle also confirmed that the City is considering the Queen Mary Road location as a possible location for those who are currently living in sleeping cabins, given that Council elected in November 2023 to end the sleeping cabins program. Chrystal Wilson, founder of Our Livable Solutions, which operates the sleeping cabins, said her organization has not been approached about that concept. Our Livable Solutions published a letter to the City on its website regarding the acquisition of the Extendicare property. That letter read, in part, “OLS is looking forward to participating in community consultation and program design for the new facility to ensure the facility’s model meets the needs of the people we support, and the surrounding neighbours.”
“This facility is the property that I think has most potential that we’ve ever acquired: one, because of its size, but two, because of its zoning it does allow for what I would call more of a health care focus… The zoning allows for wellness clinics; it allows for a number of things. And we know that our most vulnerable population doesn’t always have proper access to different health care services,” Hurdle explained of the need to consult multiple service provider partners.
While the City of Kingston approved $6.5 million in funding to AMHS-KFLA for a “new Complex Community and Health Care Facility” in April 2023, Hurdle did not indicate that the Queen Mary Road property would be the location for the project.
She did, however, express obvious excitement over the future of the property, saying that Kingston residents can expect to learn more about the project in the coming months. While she noted that the City wants to be able to open up and use the space to house people as soon as possible, Hurdle also said they want to work with service provider partners to ensure plans for the site are developed properly.
As for the price tag associated with the acquisition, Hurdle disclosed the City paid $3.8 million for the property, all of which came from funding previously approved as part of the Capital Budget.
The City hopes to take over the property mid-summer; however, Hurdle emphasized that, should Extendicare run into any delays in its move to its new facility, the City will be flexible with the long-term care organization to ensure that transition runs smoothly.