Emerald Centre 'a phoenix' rising in place of notorious old hotel
On March 14, 2007, Terry Lake was outside the Rendezvous Hotel with Kamloops Mounties as they pulled off a dramatic, explosive arrest of two of the city's gang leaders.
Then mayor of Kamloops, Lake happened to be on a ride-along with then-Insp. Yves Lacasse, who wanted to show off his detachment's new crime-reduction strategies at work.
Lacasse got called to the 'Vous for the arrests of Jayme Russell and Thomas Crawford, and Lake tagged along.
This morning (July 27), Lake, in his current role as Liberal MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, was one of a group of dignitaries on hand at the formerly notorious building on West Victoria Street to cut the ribbon on Emerald Centre — a homeless shelter and transitional housing complex on the former site of the Rendezvous.
"It's a complete turnaround for this facility — a place that was home to gang leaders and drug dealers and the exploitation of women, to a place that's going to give hope," Lake told KTW.
"That's the past, but now we have this phoenix rising."
The phoenix of which Lake speaks is a 35-bed emergency shelter — including 12 spots for women — and 11 transitional apartments.
Kamloops Coun. Tina Lange also harkened back to the old 'Vous in speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"I tell you, it was just a crap hole," she said.
"It was really bad."
But, Lange said, that's no longer the case.
"I always saw this as a very negative building — a building that destroyed people," she said.
"But, now, it's a building that builds people up."
Emerald Centre will be operated by the Kamloops chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Doug Sage, executive director of the association, said the new facility is just what Kamloops' marginalized community needed.
"If you're homeless and you've been mucking on the streets in plus-40 weather or minus-20 weather, you need a place like this," he said.
"We are excited by the chance to provide a safe, secure environment to help the people who come here to set new goals and work toward realizing a brighter future."
THE 'VOUS THAT WAS
The Rendezvous used to be a strip club and hotel, but operated more like a rooming house. It was shut down in 2008 after a damning report by liquor inspectors led to its licence being yanked.
The report noted 133 police files involving the Rendezvous between 2006 and 2008, and said almost every 'Vous resident had at least two-dozen criminal convictions.
In April 2008, before the report was issued, Kamloops Mounties raided the Rendezvous and found 50 grams of cocaine in the office of Christine Rae, who was then the owner of the building.
She was later sentenced to six months in jail.
Jayme Russell, believed at one time to be the leader of the local cell of the Independent Soldiers street gang, testified in court that he used to "work security" at the Rendezvous.
During the raid on Rae's office, investigators found Independent Soldiers paraphernalia.
"On a hot day in Kamloops, if you wanted to find a criminal or a member of a criminal organization you would go to the Rendezvous Hotel," said B.C. liquor inspector Greg Boggiss in the 2008 report.
In 2010, the provincial government purchased the building for $853,000. The renovation work cost $2.7 million.