The Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce revealed the design for its new building, and the results of its business walk, at Thursday night’s Business After Business event.
Representatives from Cover Architectural Collaborative Inc. of Nelson were on hand at the Business After Business event held at the Sandman Hotel to answer questions about the design for the new Visitor Information Centre and Chamber of Commerce building in Castlegar. The new building will replace the current Chamber building, which is “not really functional due to the crumbling foundation,” according to Tammy Verigin-Burk, executive director of the Chamber.
The design is modern and based on three rectangular shapes, with the middle one (the visitor centre) rotated “to maximize views.”
“The views influenced the ways this building came together,” explained Lukas Armstrong, a principal at Cover Architectural Collaborative. “The program that we were given by the Chamber of Commerce, in terms of the kind of square footage they needed and the kinds of functions that they wanted to have in it, they really wanted to fold in aspects of the visitors centre with the Chamber of Commerce, with Community Futures and a few other potential lessees.”
Verigin-Burk is excited about the design.
“My favourite part of the design is just the whole open concept and what I believe is going to be a huge draw,” she said. “One of the issues that we have being on Highway 3 is that quite often people are passing — they’re going to Vancouver or Calgary… — and so we’ve got this opportunity to have this amazing building that will be right on the edge of the bank, so we’re hoping that it will draw people in, and in turn, they come into the building and we have an opportunity to convince them to stay and to visit and to see some of the sites, and even potentially encourage them that it may be a place that they may want to relocate to.”
Armstrong hopes to design the building to passive house standard, which means that the thermal performance of the building envelope will be optimized to minimize heat loss. He himself is passive house certified by Passive House Institute in Darmstadt, Germany.
“Passive house is an aggressive energy efficiency standard that actually reduces your energy bill by 80 per cent, so it has a really, fairly significant … economic benefit,” said Armstrong.
One of the questions frequently asked by those viewing the plans was whether or not there would still be an RV dump on site, as that wasn’t addressed in the plans. Verigin-Burk said the Chamber wants to make sure the RV dump stays.
“No matter what happens, we want to make sure there is still an RV dump for people,” she said. “So we’ll be working with the City to take a look at how that’s going to look.”
To pay for the building, the Chamber launched a fundraising campaign at the Business After Business event, inviting local businesses and donors to sponsor the building.
So far the Chamber has raised $100,000 of the cost — over $20,000 from the Columbia Basin Trust, $9,000 from Kootenay Savings Credit Union, $10,000 from Heritage Credit Union and the rest came from the Chamber’s building fund. Verigin-Burk said that the Chamber is looking at several funding opportunities, but that in the end the Chamber may also need to carry part of a mortgage.
“We’ve diligently worked out how that will work,” said Verigin-Burk. “To make sure that we have enough rental income that’s coming in to pay the mortgage payment, so we can always deliver the exceptional service that we do for our Chamber members and visitors, and in no point in time will our services that we do … be interfered with because of a mortgage payment or something like that.”
Majority of Castlegar businesses rate their business as ‘good or increasing’
The Chamber also released the results of the business walk it conducted back in May. Of the 76 businesses polled during the walk, 60 per cent rated their current business as “good or increasing,” while only nine per cent rate their business as “slow or poor” and 30 per cent rated it as “fair or steady.”
Businesses identified labour shortage as the number one issue facing Castlegar businesses, with 42 per cent of businesses reporting that finding employees is their biggest challenge.
The majority of businesses also reported that they have no intentions of selling or retiring in the next five years, with only 14 per cent reporting that they planned to sell or retire in that period. About a third of businesses, 37 per cent, reported that they had a succession plan, while an equal number said they did not (26 per cent said the question didn’t apply).
Moving forward, businesses would like to see development in the downtown, a shop local campaign, and more marketing done to attract tourists, residents and businesses.