Urban site wanted for new Wheatland Lodge

·4 min read

Members of the community and other stakeholders have said that an urban site is needed for the new Wheatland Lodge, and that it should feature an array of innovative design features to keep residents happy and healthy.

Wheatland Housing Management Board (WHMB) has launched an initiative to replace the existing lodge with a new facility and also provide hospice space through partnership with the Wheatland and Area Hospice Society.

Berry Architecture, the firm responsible for the design of the new building, is leading a five-session public engagement process to hear resident opinions on what they feel is needed. During each session, participants are being asked how design decisions will affect functional independence, engagement (creating opportunities for activities and relationships), health and safety, and quality of life.

The first engagement session, held Oct. 8, focused on the “site context” of the proposed building, including questions about the existing environment (what’s there now) of potential sites and the design of the building’s exterior spaces.

During this session, participants were asked whether they wanted the building to be located in a rural area, which would provide more privacy; an urban setting, which would provide greater access to amenities in town; or a suburban site, which would fall somewhere in between.

There was overwhelming support for an urban site for the building.

“People want to feel connected to the community,” said Glenn Koester, WHMB chair.

Services that respondents said should be close to the facility include medical and dental, physiotherapy, shopping and banking. Such a location would increase access to services to amenities, help seniors maintain independence for as long as possible, and would increase interactions with the community, said Caitlin Wilson, interior designer.

One potential site for the new building is in Kinsmen Park, said Wilson. This would provide an urban location close to downtown amenities on town-owned land. However, WHMB is looking at seven different sites, she added.

These include both town-owned and private properties, said Koester, who said he could not yet provide additional information about these potential sites. “It’s the community engagement that at the end of the day will be the biggest factor in determining a parcel of land that we choose. And costs too, if it’s prohibitive.”

The second engagement session, held Oct. 15, focused on possible interior features of the proposed facility.

Participants were asked what elements of the history and culture of Strathmore and Wheatland County should be represented in the new facility. Responses included wide-open prairie spaces, agriculture and ranching, and a close, home-like atmosphere. This could be achieved through agricultural artifacts, historical photos or murals.

“We need to create that sense of belonging in this facility; so anything that reminds us of agriculture, of history, I think those are great elements to incorporate into the different sections or areas of the lodge,” said Isaac Martinez, senior architect.

Respondents said features in the current Wheatland Lodge that should be accommodated in the new facility include large windows to provide natural light and view of greenspaces, a covered porch or patio, wide hallways, an aquarium, and an arts and crafts space.

To support the hobbies of residents, an art studio and gallery, music room, a designated games room, indoor horticulture area and woodworking shop were also suggested as potential features. Also discussed were ideas to make family visits more memorable, including smaller, more private spaces, and shared cooking or meal spaces. Areas to provide refuge and privacy were also suggested, including a library, smaller shared spaces and a place for worship.

The lodge’s main meal area was also a topic of discussion, focused on how to stimulate appetites and make mealtime more enjoyable. The idea for having an open kitchen prep area in the meal area was brought forth, which could help residents see and smell meals as they are prepared, thereby creating a stronger connection. The noisier work, such as dishwashing, could still be done in a separated kitchen area, however. A snack area was also suggested, which could provide residents with more flexibility.

The session also focused on ways to keep residents active, including a safe walking space, destination areas, a multipurpose gymnasium room and space for outdoor activities, such as pickleball, horseshoes and lawn bowling.

The participants also voiced the importance of the lodge having a strong connection with nature. Ways this could be achieved include an indoor garden space, views of the outside and water features, or even the shapes, textures and colours of interior finishings, said Wilson.

So far, engagement has seemed successful, said Koester.

“People are signing on and participating. I like the way they are involved,” he said, adding that people logged in through 32 devices into the Oct. 15 session, with some watching in groups.

Each session is available for viewing on Berry Architecture’s website (www.berryarchitecture.ca/community-engagement/wheatland/) or may be accessed through YouTube. Koester said there is no deadline for feedback regarding the information discussed in each session. The final three sessions are being held on Oct. 22 and 29, and Nov. 5.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times