More details have been released in a closed council meeting report about the city’s purchase of the Northbridge Hotel on Tranquille Road and adjacent property on Campbell Avenue in North Kamloops.
The report states council authorized negotiation for the property in partnership with BC Housing during an April 13, 2021, closed council meeting.
Council voted 6-0 during a Sept. 21 closed meeting to purchase the two properties, located at 377 Tranquille Rd. and 346 Campbell Ave., for a total of $7.15 million.
Mayor Ken Christian and councillors Dale Bass, Dieter Dudy, Mike O’Reilly, Bill Sarai and Denis Walsh voted in favour.
Councillors Sadie Hunter and Kathy Sinclair declared conflicts of interest and Coun. Arjun Singh was absent for personal reasons.
Conditions were removed on Sept. 23, but the deal does not close until Oct. 22.
The city purchased the properties to create affordable and market rental housing, with plans to partner with BC Housing to put affordable housing on the Campbell Avenue property and for future market redevelopment of the hotel property facing Tranquille Road.
The report notes the city is in the “very early stages” of determining with BC Housing future development of the Campbell Avenue property.
KTW asked BC Housing about its plans for the property and received this response from Laura Mathews of the Crown agency:
“Planning is in the very early stages, but once more details have been confirmed and a proposal is in place, we will update the community and welcome feedback at that time.”
A report in Tuesday’s council agenda stated “shelter housing” was part of the plans, but city CAO David Trawin said during the council meeting that inclusion of shelter housing in the report was an error and that such housing will not be part of the properties’ redevelopment.
Instead, market and affordable rental housing will be part of the redevelopment.
The Campbell Avenue property behind the hotel was to be the site of the Envision day space for the homeless, one of two day spaces that were to open in August.
The downtown location — The Gathering Place — did open, on Victoria Street West, next to the storage facility for the homeless, but the North Kamloops day space never did materialize, due to issues with negotiating a lease with the landlord.
It remains to be seen whether the Envision day space will open on Campbell Avenue once the city officially takes ownership on Oct. 22.
A local advocate for the homeless, Glenn Hilke, said shelter space is needed in North Kamloops.
“I mean, we see, on average, about 40 people a day with the meal train that are anchored on the North Shore and these are people who are homeless,” Hilke said.
“There are probably people we don’t see, or who we see from time to time, that are trying to maintain some kind of encampment along the river shore, even though bylaws is sweeping the riverside to get people out of there.”
In addition to shelter space needed in North Kamloops, Hilke said he worries about those now living in the Northbridge Hotel, some of whom have pets.
The city said between 60 and 65 units in the hotel have tenants.
“We know, from dealing with them each and every day at the meal train, that they’re very anxious since they heard about this,” Hilke said.
“Just wondering how long they have to live there and where they’re going to go after that and who’s going to be eligible.”
As for why the public was not consulted about the sale, the city stated in its closed meeting report that land acquisition matters occur in-camera, as per the Community Charter.
Meanwhile, reactions vary in the wake of the city’s purchase.
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 will be 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.
The city’s $7.15 million purchase was less than the $7.49 million asking price, but well above the properties’ assessed value of $3.1 million and more than the appraised value of $6.1 million.