Progress is being made on plans for a new building in downtown Castlegar that would host the Kootenay Gallery of Art and affordable residential apartments.
The project is slated for the site of the old Eremenko building at the corner of Columbia Avenue and 3rd Street.
Columbia Basin Trust provided a grant to the City of Castlegar to obtain the property back in April 2021. Since then, the city has hired consulting firm CitySpaces to investigate possibilities for the space.
City Spaces presented a draft feasibility study to city council at their Oct. 4 meeting.
The consultants narrowed down half a dozen options to the two they consider to be the best. Both of those options include the demolition of the current building and a replacement building constructed with the gallery facing Columbia Avenue and six stories of affordable housing facing 3rd Street.
The first option, known as Concept 2C, calls for 33 residential units. Construction on either component — housing or gallery — could happen independently of the other. This allows more flexibility as one portion of the project could move ahead once funding is secured. The early-stage estimate of capital costs for the option is $11.3 million.
The units would include 17 with one bedroom, 11 with two bedrooms and five with three bedrooms.
The second option, known as Concept 2B, would involve construction on the gallery and residential components happening at the same time. This allows for more housing units (48) because some of the units could be constructed above the gallery. The units would include 23 with one bedroom, 20 with two bedrooms and five with three bedrooms.
With the higher unit count, this option appears to be more financially efficient, according to the consultants. The downside is that funding for both portions would need to be secured prior to starting. The capital costs of this option are estimated to be $15.1 million.
Neither concept incorporates underground parking, and a parking variance will be required for the project. However, city staff have stated that there is substantial off-street and-on-street parking available throughout the downtown core, including city-owned lots near the site.
Although the city owns the site, municipalities are generally not in the business of operating housing. This brings us to the next step.
In order to gain financing for the project and move forward, the city will need to partner with a non-profit society to operate the housing portion of the project.
The City of Castlegar will be issuing a formal Expression of Interest notice with a closing date of Nov. 2 in order to find that partner.
Once a society is selected, that society would then submit a proposal to BC Housing or the CMHC, under the Community Housing Fund or the Co-investment Fund, or similar future programs.
Design approvals, contracts for construction, receipt of capital, and operating funding would run through the non-profit society.
The city would need to approve any required rezoning, subdivision, or development permits for the project.
The report states that typical arrangements for similar projects have a city lease land to a society for 60 years at no cost.
Plans for the gallery portion of the project call for a 11,539 sq.ft. space that includes multiple exhibition galleries, a gift shop, staff offices, a boardroom and a workshop. The estimated construction costs are $3.9 to $4.6 million.
The Kootenay Gallery of Art has been investigating options and developing plans for a future relocation for more than six years. Public and stakeholder engagement has been ongoing during that time and the gallery has come to the table with a good idea of what it needs in the new facility.
At this stage, funding for the gallery portion is still undetermined, but the consultants say that capital funding contributions for cultural facilities can often be secured from both provincial and federal governments. Most cultural facilities also rely on substantial donations from the community, with some key major donors secured initially and a fundraising program organized via a capital campaign.