The dream of having a retirement village in Te Anau went from a paper project to a brick-and-mortar reality last week.
McRaeway Homes signed a contract last week to design and build the first stage of the Murchison Villas retirement village near the Fiordland Medical Centre. It was the last piece of the puzzle needed to give a definitive green light to a project that's been in the works for the last few years.
Murchison Villas Limited chief executive Brian McCandless said if all went according to plan, the first resident could be turning the key into a new home as early as this Christmas.
"It's no longer a paper project. It's now bricks and mortar, holes in the ground," he said.
There were other important boxes to check to get to this point. Among them, Murchison Villas needed the deposits for six out of the 10 homes in the first phase of the retirement village. This qualified the non-profit, limited liability company to receive a loan at less-than-commercial rates from the Community Trust of Southland, which would underwrite the development and construction costs of the project.
Mr McCandless said the project had received a great deal of interest within Te Anau, but it was initially slow going when the time came to market the project.
They realised it might have been difficult for a 70-year-old to envision what the homes looked like since they were still only designed, on-paper concepts. On top of that, many elderly would need to sell their house to purchase a retirement home, but not before also having to find six to 12 months of rental accommodation in what was already a difficult rental market.
In response, Murchison Villas decided to change its marking approach to include several philanthropic investors to buy properties to help the project get across the line. The ownership for the properties could then be transferred to the interested retirees or rented out to them, Mr McCandless said.
"They could either rent the home, for those who can't afford to buy, or they could buy the home without having to face the prospect of six to 12 months in rental accommodation because they wouldn't have to buy until it was nearly built."
All Phase 1 homes had now been sold thanks to the strategy change, he said, and Murchison Villas Limited was very happy to get to this new stage of the project.
"The town has wanted this project for 20 to 25 years... In order to make it happen, the great and the good of Te Anau are rallying behind the fly to make it happen.
"Good community spirit."