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Residence closure near Edmonton university a 'shock'

An apartment residence near the University of Alberta has given residents a surprise: three months' notice of its closure.

The volunteer board of The Ashbourne, an assisted-living facility built by the Garneau United Church, last week told the 78 people that call it home they have until Nov. 30 to move out.

Board advisor Chris Bruce told CTV News Edmonton the new owners, who recently purchased the 65-unit property from the non-profit Garneau United Assisted Living Place, decided operating the building as a residence isn't financially viable.

"The intent, originally, was that they would also operate it as an assisted living facility," said Bruce. "Unfortunately, several weeks ago, that plan changed and they decided that's not financially viable for them, either, to operate as an assisted-living facility. We had to pivot at that point and make the decision to go ahead and sell the building."

The church, which has operated in the building after constructing it on the original structure's site as a legacy for the community, will continue to hold services at the facility for at least the next two years.

Robert Tuesday, who's lived at The Ashbourne for just more than a year, said the closure announcement came as a surprise.

"Everybody's pretty shocked, I think," said Tuesday, who hasn't yet started looking for a new place to live but is considering other plans, such as moving to Winnipeg or Ontario. "People are not feeling too good about it. Everybody got used to being here and being with the same staff and same residents."

Mildred Judge, who has lived at the residence for 11-and-a-half years, was expecting to live longer than that at The Ashbourne because when she moved in, she was told she could "stay for life" but is now expecting a difficult time finding a new place to live.

"This is home," Judge said. "I cannot live with another person. I have enough problems with myself, but I'm an independent person. Now I'm getting booted. I don't even know where I can go. It's unfair."

Bruce said the board will work with employees to help them find new jobs and to help residents find new places to live. He expects the board will be able to find spaces for everyone as they've had "signals from other operators that they have plenty of room."

Bruce said the origin of the board's decision to sell the residence came a year ago when it set out to find ways to address its financial woes. Historically, the property operated with a 90-per-cent occupancy rate, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, that figure dropped to 65 per cent.

"For the last couple of years, they've had significant financial challenges," Bruce said of the board and the residence, the value of which is assessed at $23.1 million by the City of Edmonton for property tax purposes.

"About a year ago, we set out to try and find solutions, including bringing in other partners from other parts of the industry, perhaps other assisted living (facilities)," Bruce said. "Then, when the decision was made to attempt to sell the property as an assisted living facility, we went through a corporate finance expert to help us with that.

"We started with about 40 different prospects around Edmonton and the country and narrowed that down to a shortlist. At the end of the day, there was only one company that made an offer to purchase."

According to the board, the proceeds from the sale of the building will go towards paying off operating losses over the last 18 months, its long-term debt and pending costs associated with the sale.

"After all debts and costs are satisfied, all resources will be dedicated to support staff and residents in relocation," the board said in an email.

The sale price and the name of the buyer were not disclosed.

"The volunteer board of directors is quite devastated," Bruce said. "We recognize that this is a big challenge for the residents, the families, and the staff and their families. And the board has worked really hard to commit all their resources over the coming months to transitioning our residents to new homes and transitioning our staff to new employment as well." Top Stories

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