At the City of Castlegar’s council meeting of Monday, June 3, Castlegar New Vision Housing Society (CNVHS) told council about a bold plan to purchase the Eremenko and Fields buildings at the corner of Columbia Ave. and 3rd St. and turn them into apartments and retail space.
“It’s a great project, an eligible project and we’re optimistic. But it’s not in the bag,” said Dan Sahlstrom, spokesperson for CNVHS.
But there is a hitch.
Columbia Basin Trust, together with BC Housing will help fund the project if it’s deemed the project is viable and only if the City of Castlegar stands behind, in principle, the project.
“This application [for the funding] will go nowhere without community backing and real support from city hall,” explained Sahlstrom.
“We were told very directly that it won’t happen unless we have community support,” Sahlstrom added.
The plan calls for restoration of nine existing suites above the Fields store and the creation of six new suites in the Eremenko building.
As well, CNVHS envisions renovation of the street level of Fields to create retail rentals focused towards art, culture and community, which Sahlstrom added, would help drive people downtown and revitalize its core.
“Our dream is that it could make a great meeting place with the opportunity, perhaps, to have workshops and make it a real community space,” Sahlstrom said.
Those retail rentals, he added would also assist in ongoing costs once the project was on its feet.
“We have to present CBT a sustainable project. There would be $375 a month in housing [for each rental unit] and with the retail it would put us at about $10 per square foot income. That’s not bad for a retail business. We have a business case which we think is realistic,” Sahlstrom added.
As for the actual overall health of the aging buildings, Sahlstrom said it appears as if the building is solid, but did acknowledge that it would take a bit more work than simply slapping on paint and calling it a day.
In the end, the city agreed to support the project in principle on paper, but added that it must come back to planning and development for further discussion.
The city must eventually be willing to show more than support in principle whether that be with funding, reduction or waiving of taxes for an initial period, or the offer of resources of staff time and support.
For now CNVHS must meet the application deadline by June 7. The estimated cost of the project sits at $1,600,000, which includes purchase of the buildings and renovation.