After 18 years the future of the Esquimalt Legion has finally been decided.
A new developer – Vista Independent Living Ltd. – has stepped in to ensure the initial proposal of a 12-storey development comes to fruition, including a new 5,000- square-foot space for the Legion itself as well as assisted living units for veterans and seniors.
“It’s good news and bad news,” says branch manager Doug Grant. “The good news is in three years time we’ll have a brand new Legion and the bad news is the last dance for three years is on Saturday.”
The July 28 party will be a chance for the community to bid farewell to Royal Canadian Legion Esquimalt Dockyard Branch No. 172, stationed at 622 Admirals Rd. for the last 74 years. The doors will close for good Aug. 31.
|The Esquimalt Legion will hold their last dance this Saturday, July 25. A new development will replace the 74-year-old branch in roughly three years time. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS|
Over the course of almost two decades the property has been in limbo after a struggle between the Legion and former developer Monimos Equities and Developments.
That ended in court earlier this year and Grant says Vista has taken care of the debts in order to move forward.
In the meantime, CFB Esquimalt base commander Capt. Jason Boyd has offered space to store some of the military memorabilia and poppy campaign equipment. Says Grant: “That’s a very important thing to the veterans.”
The organization is also in talks with the Township to find some interim space for socializing, potentially using the bar at Archie Browning.
Legions were born of connectivity, says Grant, a retired chief petty officer who spent 25 years in the navy. They were a place to sit and converse with others who had shared the experience of war before things like PTSD were properly diagnosed, he explains.
“We still have veterans, we’re always going to have veterans. If people look at the news, this world is not in good shape right now,” he says, pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s investment in the military with Strong, Secure, Engaged, the 20-year, $62.3-billion spending plan.
In Esquimalt, Grant says the Legion has contributed to its community over seven decades in myriad ways. He estimates “millions of dollars” have gone to those in need, including five $3,000 scholarships to students of veteran families awarded just last week.
“These are the things we’ve done over the years, this is our priority,” says Grant, who plans to retire from his position of 28 years after this chapter of the branch’s history comes to a close.
When the doors of the new Legion open, the space will be outfitted with new furnishings and Grant hopes whoever takes over his role is someone with a military background.
“That’s extremely important.”