New seniors campus?

Community leaders are looking to the future of the Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors – the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Residence – with the realization that the aging buildings no longer support current standards and processes for delivery of health-care practices, technology and equipment. It’s been two years since the planning began, and the redevelopment committee is considering two options for the makeup of a new campus.

The first and preferred option involves relocating from the current four-acre property to the site of a new Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. By developing a mixed-use centre, its recreational and cultural programs and services would enhance healthcare and long-term care for seniors. It would also mean shared construction and operating costs.

The second option is to build stand-alone facilities for the seniors campus on a site close to the JCCGV. This would be smaller in size and design and entail a potentially shorter time frame for rebuilding, while maintaining proximity to the JCCGV for collaborative, intergenerational planning.

At the helm of the seniors campus is chief executive officer David Keselman. “Redevelopment is important because we are reaching the end of our ability – both [in terms of] infrastructure and operationally – to deliver care that is consistent with current and future healthcare delivery trends,” he said.

“There’s a push to keep seniors at home longer today, which means that, when they eventually require long-term services, they will be more fragile and require a higher intensity of services,” he continued. “But, whenever they need that care, this is the only Jewish healthcare delivery organization in B.C. and there’s nothing else unless you want to cross the U.S. border. It’s extremely important that the community supports this and that the government realizes that, for Jewish people, there’s nowhere else to go if they want to preserve their culture, customs and way of living.”

Rozanne Kipnes, a real estate development consultant with Tamarix Developments, was on the board of the Louis Brier for years and has been contracted to help secure a site, its legal structure and some financing opportunities. The big difference between the campus being planned and the current model, she said, is that the older model is based on a tendency to isolate seniors.

“The way we deliver care today is not the way it’s delivered in other countries around the world,” she explained. “We want to reengage and integrate seniors with the community, not isolate them. The government has seen this model tested in other communities and other countries and they’ve noted that when seniors’ long-term care is handled this way – with an integration of health and social needs – there’s a better quality of life for everybody and less burden on families.”

Kipnes noted that the Jewish community’s founding families “blessed” today’s community with land assets that can be leveraged “to support the redevelopment of an urban seniors care, health, wellness and cultural hub within the historical precinct of the Jewish community. We are hopeful it will also provide legacy operating and capital fund replacement to support collaborations going forward.”

Neither Kipnes nor Keselman would comment on the value of the land or the estimated costs of constructing a new campus. Kipnes said that how the land gets “leveraged” is all part of the discussion, and pivotal to that discussion will be how the City of Vancouver zones the land – for low-, medium- or high-density residential construction.

Right now, the volunteer redevelopment board is engaged in discussions, focus groups, market analyses and donor outreach. A study is underway to explore the number of units that will be required for residents of the campus, the current and future health services models of care and the facilities needed to support them. The study’s completion is expected by next month.

Whatever option is chosen, Kipnes said a new campus is at least eight years from reality. “If we’re successful in this endeavour as a community, it will be the largest community endeavour we’ve ever undertaken,” she said. “It’s well worth the collaboration and patience this project requires because the end will very much justify the means. On a new campus, we envision families from across the community reengaged and reunited. We see children with their grandparents engaging in activities between the JCC and the Louis Brier, combined with a host of other Jewish community agencies. A mixed-use project like this is very complicated and requires much more collaboration at all levels of the Jewish community. But it’s very doable.”

Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit This article was originally published by CJN.