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Health alliance announces plans for new long-term care home in Stratford, demolition of Avon Crest

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The Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) has announced plans for a new long-term care home beside Stratford General Hospital.

On Monday, the HPHA said it entered into a land lease agreement with private care home operator Revera Canada that will allow the company to build a new 128-bed facility on the Avon Crest property, the site of Stratford’s original hospital.

The HPHA said the Avon Crest building will be demolished, adding that the new development will “serve as a catalyst to redevelop the remaining available land.”

According to the HPHA, this will include discussions with the city on accessible housing options.

The HPHA said the province gave the go-ahead for Revera to expand the Hillside Manor Long-Term Care Home west of Sebringville, and after assessing its options, the company decided to build a larger, state-of-the-art facility in Stratford.

“We simply do not have enough local long-term care beds,” said HPHA president and CEO Andrew Williams, in a news release. “As a result, patients end up staying in hospital far too long waiting for the specialized long-term care they actually need. This chronic situation leads to longer wait times for other patients requiring hospital services. Once all necessary government approvals are secured, our long-term land-lease agreement with Revera will contribute to the solution by creating increased local capacity. Moreover, it will improve hospital care by freeing up beds for those patients waiting for surgeries or requiring admission through our emergency department.”

No details have been released on the start date for construction or when the long-term care home is expected to open.

FIGHT TO SAVE AVON CREST

Stratford’s original hospital, now known as Avon Crest, was built in 1891.

Services moved across the street to the new Stratford General Hospital in 1950 and Avon Crest operated as a convalescent facility until 1990.

The hospital continued to use the Avon Crest site for outpatient services and administrative offices up to 2018. The building has been sitting vacant since that time.

On Monday, delegates spoke at a council meeting to voice their opposition to demolishing the old hospital.

"Why aren't they taking advantage of the existing buildings and all the government funding and grants that are available to retrofit Avon Crest?" one delegate said.

The HPHA has called the redevelopment of the property and increasing maintenance costs unaffordable.

“We've had some estimates done on the building that show about $24 million required just to bring it up to code,” Andrew Williams, HPHA’s CEO, told CTV News on Jan. 30. “That would not include any repurposing costs that would be necessary from a developer point of view.”

There were also environmental concerns.

Heritage advocates have tried to stop the demolition of Avon Crest. Stratford councillor Cody Sebben motioned to send a letter to the alliance endorsing that they designate the site under the Ontario Heritage Act.

"For the members of Save Avon Crest, for the nearly 150 citizens on our mailing list and the more than 3,000 people that signed our petition to save the building, it is inconceivable that Stratford City Council might allow this remarkable building to be demolished," another delegate said.

Coun. Sebben's motion was defeated eight to two, as council said they first wanted a legal opinion.

MORE: Group calls the possible demolition of Stratford's first public hospital 'a waste of history'

Williams said restoring Avon Crest isn’t financially feasible.

“We very much value the role that the heritage players play,” he said Monday. “In this particular case, this particular building, in this particular location, it just does not make sense from our perspective financially, or from a land development point of view to go down that road.”

Williams adds that locating the new care home on the Avon Crest site could serve as a starting point to redevelop the remaining land for housing.

-- With reporting by Hannah Schmidt

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