Reactions vary in the wake of the city’s purchase of the Northbridge Hotel and adjacent property for $7.15 million, with plans for future redevelopment on the Tranquille Road-facing property in North Kamloops and a BC Housing project on a lot behind the hotel.
North Shore Business Improvement Association executive director Jeremy Heighton lauded the city’s purchase.
He said the property has been “challenging” for the community, due to congregation, lack of long-term vision, rumoured gang affiliations at the Duchess Nightclub and social issues. He said city investment gives the area a leg up to tackle the issues.
“It’s really good news for us,” Heighton said. “Quite frankly, there’s been a long and storied history with the site for the last 10 to 15 years. Purchase of this property by the city signals to the North Shore that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Heighton said the long-term development proposal is in the best interest of the North Shore and commercial revitalization. He said seniors and family housing would be appropriate for the BC Housing rear property and high-end restaurants would be suitable for the component facing Tranquille Road.
“This is sort of that potential jewel in the crown that we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” he said. “It may also spur some development of other properties along that area shouldering it.”
Arpa Investments has been redeveloping a number of properties in the area. Arpa partner Joshua Knaak said it is good news that the city purchased the two properties. However, he said he is concerned with BC Housing’s future ability to do what it wants with the rear property.
“If the city is actually purchasing the property and then going to control the use of the property going forward, great,” he said.
“If they’re actually, as was reported on Friday, just going to turn over the back property to BC Housing and let them do whatever they want, then I’m quite concerned because BC Housing doesn’t live in Kamloops. They don’t have the same interests that the neighbourhood and the city have. I certainly hope that the city is going to control the use of that property.”
Knaak urged the city for a covenant tied to the housing agreement with BC Housing for the back property, with the stipulation it be tied to housing for families and seniors.
Arpa has purchased properties on the corridor and shown interest in redevelopment. Knaak said Arpa had not sought to purchase the Northbridge Hotel. Asked whether Arpa would be interested in purchasing or redeveloping in the future, Knaak left it open, noting his company is planning to develop property across the street next spring.
McDonald Park Neighbourhood Association communications director Sarah Johnstone said the neighbourhood is in support of the city’s plans if the new social housing component is for seniors and families. It has concerns, however, over what happens to the mostly vacant property at 346 Campbell Ave. — the rear property that will later be sold to BC Housing — in the interim.
Johnstone said the previous owner did a good job ensuring no illegal or disruptive activities occurred.
“We definitely have some concerns about what’s going to happen, especially since the city is talking about not developing it for a little while,” she said.
The city has yet to announce an operator for the Northbridge Hotel, which currently houses tenants in an estimated 60 to 65 units. Those residents are expected to be housed in the new BC Housing project, but are able to stay for now at the hotel.
KTW reached out to BC Housing and Bob Hughes of the ASK Wellness Society for comment. BC Housing has not yet responded and Hughes declined to comment on the plans.
Meanwhile, longtime North Kamloops resident Norm Kopec wonders why the city purchased the properties and whether it — and the politicians who approved the purchase — is qualified to be in the real estate business.
Kopec opined that, if money was to be made on the properties, local business people with experience in the real estate market would have purchased the properties.
“It’s like they bought that Hudson Bay [former Kamloops Daily News property downtown],” he said. “You think they’re paying their payments for that with a parking lot? No way.”
KTW also reached out to The Duchess Nightclub for comment. A notice on the home page of the Duchess’ website states the nightclub will be closed “until further notice” due to a COVID-19 outbreak.