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Investors lose on Sidney centre

Oct 04 2012
Bethel church care centre goes for $11.2 million. 

Bethel church care centre goes for $11.2 million.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Islanders who invested their savings to build a church, a seniors care centre and a daycare facility in Sidney have had their financial hopes dashed.

The building, called the Bethel Community Baptist Church Care Centre, has sold for $11.2 million - less than half the original $23 million asking price and just enough to pay off a single lender, a company holding the first mortgage.

As a result, about 100 investors have lost millions of dollars. Many of them are Vancouver Island seniors who individually invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project.

Since it was finished in 2009, the building has been partially occupied, but the seniors centre was never opened. A Hail Mary attempt in 2011 by the investors to sell or occupy the building failed. After it was advertised for sale, the building sold for $11.2 million cash in July, according to B.C. Assessment.

"It's gone. It's over. That's it. It's history. File for your tax write-off on a capital loss," said Fraser Clark, of Mill Bay, one of the investors.

The Mills Road building, originally listed for $23 million in April 2010, was reduced to $17.9 million in October, and dropped to $15.9 million in June 2011.

The new owners listed on land title documents are Blake Mooney, a former Vancouver Island Health Authority manager, of Sidney, and Cornelis Johannes Van Dongen, of Kamloops.

They have formed a company called All Care Canada. Mooney could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

A consolation for investors is that the new owners may finally operate a seniors care facility in the building.

"It's a great building," Clark said. "It was well built and it's going to make someone a lot of money. It's going to be a very successful extended-care facility. That, I suspect, hasn't changed. It's just that we will not be the ones driving it forward, and the money is down the tubes."

Before and during construction, the seniors care centre was promoted as a no-brainer investment. Punching up the investment sale was the unspoken message: "We are the church, would we steer you wrong?"

Investors were steered wrong and the blame is everywhere, Clark said.

The facility was built on speculation - on the expectation that a private operator would move in and run publicly funded seniors care beds.

But there was no contract with the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the beds were not licensed.

Other deals collapsed. The original owner, the Bethel Care Society, finally defaulted on its financing.

The complex includes a new 41,300-square-foot church and multi-purpose community centre, an 81-bedroom long-term care facility and a daycare for 25 children, according to a real estate listing.

VIHA is in the market for a seniors care facility. It set out three years ago to replace 320 seniors care beds at two aging facilities - Oak Bay Lodge in Oak Bay and Mount Tolmie Hospital in Saanich. That hasn't happened.

A request for proposals to house those beds will go out later this year.

No deals have been made or discussions held with any potential bidder, VIHA says.

"Under our fair business practices, we would be unable to commit to enter into a contract without [a request for proposals] process," VIHA spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said. ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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