Bill Pearce looks over his new apartment in the Olympic Vista complex. Pearce is the first person selected to move into the new housing

Bill Pearce looks over his new apartment in the Olympic Vista complex. Pearce is the first person selected to move into the new housing

Vancouver Olympics athletes’ suites ready for re-use as Saanich social housing

New social housing project in Saanich prepares to open its doors

Bill Pearce walks into his new home and can’t help but grin.

“Wow,” the 73-year-old says over and over as he meanders about the spacious apartment – his first new place in his life.

Pearce has spent the last year downtown, at the oft-maligned View Towers, with living assistance provided by the province and Victoria Cool Aid Society. Though he’s not homeless, the jovial senior is at-risk of being on the street, which makes him a perfect candidate for – and the first to move in to – Olympic Vista.

The 36-suite building on Carey Road is the first Cool Aid-operated social housing project in Saanich. The tenants will move in at the beginning of next month, but, last week, Pearce toured the building he’ll soon call home.

“It’s nice to look forward to something that’s my own. Something that nobody’s ever lived in,” he says.

That’s not entirely true. The units that make up the apartment building were formerly the Athletes Village housing in Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The project is part of the $8.4 million Olympic legacy housing construction, which provided apartments to six locations in the province to create social housing.

Olympic Vista is essentially 18 trailers stacked on top of each other to create the suites, and then crews with Heatherbrae Builders enveloped the apartments with siding, hallways and an amenity wing.

Project manager John Gauld, with CitySpaces Consulting, says it’s been great to see the quick turnaround on the project – the trailers were dropped off less than a year ago.

“It’s great to see it all come together,” Gauld said.

The suites themselves will all come furnished when the residents move in – complete with a stove, fridge, kitchen table, wardrobe, bed and bathroom.

An amenity wing in the building includes a dining room, a large kitchen, laundry and a small computer area. There will also be counselling services and support groups to help residents improve their overall quality of life.

Pearce was lucky enough to get the first choice of an apartment – No. 305. He chose it, the southeastern-most suite on the top floor, because he’ll get a lot of sun coming through the three large windows.

Phil Knight, site superintendent with Heatherbrae, says this type of project is solid and innovative enough that he hopes to see it set a new standard.

“It should be where we’re going with this type of housing,” he said. “Seeing Bill come through here and have a look at his new home – that’s what it’s all about. We can take great pride in a project like this.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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