$1.6-mill project proposed to revitalize downtown core

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
June 6th, 2013

Castlegar New Vision Housing Society is currently seeking funding for a $1.6-million project that could help rejuvenate the downtown core while providing affordable housing for singles, city council heard at its regular meeting Monday evening.

Society spokesman Dan Sahlstrom told council that Columbia Basin Trust and BC Housing have a pool of $10 million in grant money for capital housing projects in the basin, and the society is now qualified to apply, having completed a need/demand study here in Castlegar.

Sahlstrom said their plan is to purchase and renovate the building that used to house the Field’s store on Columbia Avenue and Third Street.

“We’ve approached the owner, and they’ve indicated they’re willing to sell it to our society,” he said. “We’ll restore nine existing residential suites on the upper floor.”

He said the retail spaces at the street level will be used for some sort of community gathering space, as well as a retail outlet to help fund the society. The roof of the building would be used for a rooftop garden or deck. He said the deal would actually mean acquiring two parcels, 310 Columbia Ave. and 1224 3 St., and the second parcel could be used for tenant parking and perhaps a garden space and/or future expansion.

“The $1.6 million will cover purchase and renovation,” he said, adding the property should generate enough revenue to cover its own ongoing operational costs. “The rental income is a reasonable income, so the project will be sustainable.

“We have a business case which we think is realistic,” he said, explaining rental revenue would work out to roughly $10 per square foot.

Part of the application requirement was that the applicant show they had city government support, and Sahlstrom said, while they’re always happy to accept cash, they’d also be delighted with in-kind support such as tax relief, city staff assistance and support and/or a waived development fee.

He said the application had to be with a courier by Wednesday to meet the application deadline this Friday, so city council unanimously voted to waive its procedural bylaw and immediately provide a letter expressing their support, in principle, of the project.

“I think it’s a wonderful and worthwhile project, and it’s been a long time coming,” said councillor Deb McIntosh, adding that while there’s subsidized housing in Castlegar for families, “there’s absolutely nothing for singles.”

Sahlstrom added that CBT won’t fund renovation or repair for the retail space, so the society will have some fundraising to do once the residential units are complete, about $600,000 worth, but added the project could be instrumental in increasing downtown foot traffic and appeal.



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