Everyone in Sooke knows a traffic circle was being constructed in the summer on 2015. But how many of us realized that 31 new units were being built in the core of Sooke, before, during and after the construction of the Sooke Road roundabout? Construction at the 6669 Horne Road’s two acre lot officially began on September 19, 2014, creating BC’s first senior cohousing community. By January 15 of this year, Sooke had a new apartment block, and several new duplexes and fourplexes in this central location. Shortly after, the residents began moving in.
Who knew? Besides CBC listeners in Victoria and the rest of Canada, that is. (Listen to this week’s CBC On the Island interview below, and link to the CBC Sunday Edition interview in the Resources at the end.)
Yesterday, on Thursday February 25, I enjoyed my first site tour given by Margaret Critchlow, one of the original founding members (see the gallery below for photos). She was presenting to a group of interested seniors from Nanaimo, who were looking at possibly duplicating something similar.
The idea is pretty simple, and in its simplicity, pretty radical: Live in a community where people look after each other as each grows older, and live independent, longer.
The idea was hatched by a core group beginning in November 2010.
“The founding group at the very beginning was myself, Gail Abernethy and Andrew Moore,” recalls Margaret Critchlow. “Gail and Andrew remain honorary founding members but decided not to become equity members. The founding equity members in January 2013 were myself and John Boquist, and six other Sooke households, joined by Ralph Hull as soon as we removed conditions on buying the land from him. Members then joined from elsewhere.”
The founders attended some courses to learn more about co-housing starting in 2011 (they are still taking courses, so it’s an ongoing process… they are also giving courses). As mentioned previously, the group purchased a two-acre piece of waterfront land from Ralph Hull in 2012. The Harbourside cohousing group kept the original house on the land, and around it they built their vision.
Community members came mostly from Vancouver Island, though some came from as far away as Berlin. “The first 10 households were from Sooke, as was the last household (11 in all),” said Critchlow. ” Twenty joined from away: nine from elsewhere in the Capital Regional District, three from elsewhere on Vancouver Island, two from the BC mainland, five from Alberta, and one international, a Canadian from Berlin.”
“Community Design should encourage social interaction and at the same time allow residents to choose whether to be with others or to be alone. When you walk into cohousing, you should always feel that you have the choice between as much privacy as you want and as much community as you want.”
Page 141 – The Senior Cohousing Handbook by Charles Durrett
The original house formerly known as Sooke Ocean Resort is now the common resort building that contains “gracious dining and kitchen space, three guest rooms with luxurious baths as well as multi-purpose rooms, and a potential caregiver’s apartment” (from their website, referenced below). In addition, the property features common gardens, a workshop, a waterfront gazebo and other common facilities. There is also space for residents’ boats at their dock.
It was a lot of work. Acquiring the land and building the community was one thing; setting up systems using a consensus model was quite another. According to Margaret Critchlow’s presentation, the learning curve was steep, interesting, and full of surprises. And, it’s still an ongoing process. The community members are achieving a balance between humility in learning while boldly materializing a vision. It’s not perfect, Critchlow will be the first to tell you that. It’s a project in progress. And, most importantly, it’s working.
Their success has met their highest expectations. All 31 units (each featuring grand ocean views by the way) sold before the construction even began on September 19. All were sold by word of mouth.
“Today there are 231 people on our interested list, meaning that they want to be notified if a Harbourside unit becomes available for rent or purchase,” notes Critchlow.
Further, as yesterday’s tour group from Nanaimo showed, interested seniors are turning to the Sooke group for advice, guidance and input for other possible co-housing communities that might be springing up as Baby Boomers now shift into their retirement years.
We could not help but notice the construction for the traffic circle on Sooke Road. And during that time, the Sooke Harbourside Cohousing community quietly sprang up under our noses. This Sooke group is setting a new Canadian senior-living standard, quietly turning a dream into a living, thriving community. Inevitably, we will all age. Lucky for us, we have a trend-setting senior living group of experts right here in our lovely home town of Sooke.
For more information, have a look through the gallery and visit the links referenced in the Resources below.
Harbourside Cohousing Demographics (provided by Critchlow)
- Youngest equity member joined at 47 (one adult child was 42)
- Oldest member joined at 84
- More members are in their 60s than in any other decade of life
- We are a multi-generational community spanning three generations
- We have three parents in their 80’s of children who also are Harbourside members.
- Campbell Construction was the contractor.
- Ronaye Matthew (Cohusing Development Consulting) was the project manager.
- Peter Treuheit’s Mobius Architecture worked with us to create our community.
- West Wind Harbour: Sooke’s Second Cohousing Development
- A second cohousing development springs up in Sooke: Introducing West Wind Harbour Cohousing
- Official opening of Harbourside Senior Cohousing, photo gallery
- Founding members wanted: New Cohousing Opportunity in Sooke
- VIDEO: Back when Sooke’s Harbourside Cohousing community was just an idea
- Sooke’s best kept secret: A senior cohousing community with 31 units sets a Canadian standard
- Sooke’s Harbourside Cohousing is going full steam ahead
- ICYMI: “My Last Big Adventure” … Harbourside, Sooke’s Senior Co-Housing project, hits the national airwaves
- Sooke’s senior co-housing project gets noticed, nationally
- LETTER: Sushi ON The Sea sets sail