An architectural design rendering of the Leo Wertman Residence at 611 West 41st Ave. (photo from Gomberoff Bell Lyon Architects Group Inc.)
When Legacy Senior Living opens in the Oakridge neighborhood in July 2014, the 91-suite, independent-living seniors residence will pay tribute to a man who believed in building community. Built by the Wertman Group of Companies, it was created in honor of Leo Wertman, who founded the company back in 1962.
According to material provided by the company, Leo Wertman came of age in Ruzaniec, Poland, and was the only survivor of his family during the German occupation. As a teen, he became a Polish partisan, participating in missions to defy the occupation and emancipate Poland. In the process, he became a protector to many Jewish women and children, as well as the sick and elderly who sought shelter in the forest outside the city limits of Lublin and Ruzaniec. By night, he would venture into town, returning with food and medical supplies that helped keep some 200 displaced, hidden Jews alive during the occupation. Later in his life, he moved to Canada with his wife Regina and children Joseph and Rochelle. His business origins were manual labor and a small scrap-metal endeavor that he built up until he had the funds to invest in residential real estate in the 1960s. In a fast-growing city like Vancouver, he believed people would always need somewhere to live. According to the family, he became known as the “Provider” for the role he played during the war, and it was one he lived up to until his passing in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, the business was expanding and Wertman’s son became actively involved, helping it grow from a few apartment buildings to a large development company and real estate management group. Today, this private company includes grandson Jason Wertman, who serves as vice-president of Legacy Senior Living.
The Wertman Group has built several higher-end residential/condominium buildings on the west side of Vancouver, and it manages rental properties on the North Shore from its headquarters at 1199 West Pender.
The Wertman Group has made its mark on the Lower Mainland in a variety of ways. The company’s portfolio includes the Hycroft Medical Centre and the Guildford Medical Centre, two landmark medical buildings that were overhauled, renovated and re-tenanted. It has built several higher-end residential/condominium buildings on the west side of Vancouver, and it manages rental properties on the North Shore from its headquarters at 1199 West Pender.
Beyond business, the Wertmans have a legacy of donating to causes in Israel as well as to organizations serving the local Jewish community, including the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Vancouver Talmud Torah, Lubavitch B.C., Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and Schara Tzedeck Synagogue.
“With Legacy Senior Living, our goal was to create an outstanding senior living residence in Leo’s honor, right here in the heart of Vancouver,” said Jason Wertman by telephone. “We want it to be a place where seniors can stay active and involved, living creative and fulfilling lives – a place where great food, friendships, culture and thoughtful living spaces will combine as the ideal lifestyle community.” The residence was designed to promote a healthy, independent way of life that highlights personal choice, convenience and exceptional service. “People who have some gas in their tanks can come here to reclaim quality of life and focus on being active and healthy,” he added.
Wertman describes Legacy Senior Living as being comparable to a Four Seasons Hotel. “It’s truly luxury living, with high-end finishes and a boutique style. The suites, which will be available exclusively for rental and will range in price from $3,750 to $7,700 per month, feature video-monitored entrances, automatic keyless entry, three elevators and remote-controlled blinds.”
“We’re right in the heart of the Jewish community, with easy access to shops, physicians, services, parks and familiar neighborhoods, and the availability of a town car transportation service will help residents move around their local catchment area.”
The location is a big draw, noted Carol Omstead, managing director. “We’re right in the heart of the Jewish community, with easy access to shops, physicians, services, parks and familiar neighborhoods, and the availability of a town car transportation service will help residents move around their local catchment area.”
Life at Legacy includes a selection of dining choices, a concierge service and a wellness navigator, who can give advice and information to residents when and if needed. Jewish residents will have ample opportunities to continue their traditions, including Oneg Shabbat with a special musical performance by Annette Wertman on Friday afternoons, kosher-style meals (with strictly kosher meals available for those who require them) and the town car service, which can help them commute to the synagogue of their choice. “Our goal is to keep all cultural groups connected to their traditions,” Omstead said.
“We’re gearing towards the Jewish community,” added Wertman. “Our target market is the same as that of the Jewish Community Centre and the Richmond Country Club. The Jewish community is not enough to support us entirely, so we’re open to everyone. But the residence is geared towards and was inspired by the Jewish community.”
Omstead said Legacy was designed for seniors who want their golden years to be a time of growth and development. “It’s about living life your way, preserving and enhancing your activity level and independence” she said. “When you’re in a positive environment like Legacy, you can achieve great things.”
The seniors residence that most closely resembles Legacy is Tapestry, which has locations in Kitsilano and on the south campus of the University of British Columbia. What sets Legacy apart is that more meals are included, there is transportation available to residents seven days a week and its central location in Oakridge. Also, its ownership. Omstead added that the company is particularly suited to serve the local population. “Because we’re right here, we’re really attuned to the community we serve,” she said.
Wertman said his family is excited about the development, one of their biggest projects to date. “It’s consuming all our time and energy, and the suites are being rented out quickly,” he said. “Everything we have now is from the foundations that my grandfather Leo built, so, in a sense, this is his legacy project.”
The presentation centre, now open at 2827 Arbutus, at 12th Avenue, is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m, and all day Saturday and Sunday. A courtesy shuttle service in a dedicated Legacy Senior Living 2013 Bentley is available for those who don’t drive. Call 604-240-8550 to arrange for a ride during the show suite hours.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.