A developer who has been scooping up property in the Tranquille corridor has purchased 1.5 acres between Wood Street and Clapperton Road, with plans for a three-phase project in the next five to six years that would include a residential building, a hotel and a technology and arts centre.
“There’s going to be some incredible things happening along this corridor,” Joshua Knaak of Arpa Investments said.
Arpa Investments — the same developer behind social housing that will rise at nearby Spirit Square and The Station on Tranquille condo development now under construction in the 200-block of Tranquille — announced on Friday afternoon outside of Kamloops Innovation Centre preliminary plans for what he estimated to be an eventual $50-million investment in the area.
Arpa Investments purchased the land, currently home to Kamloops Innovation Centre and parking, from Mike Rink in August.
Arpa’s five staffers will be moving in on Monday, having nearly completed their first task of minor renovations to the building: repairing a leaky roof, landscaping, HVAC work and replacement of a green exterior with medal siding. Recent plans to add another floor to Kamloops Innovation Centre fell through for unknown reasons. Renovations have been about five years in the making.
“You get used to what you’re in, but for clients and potential customers and potential partners, it’s nice to have a building that you can bring them to that you can be proud of, so that’s the hugest change for us,” Kamloops Innovation Centre executive director Lincoln Smith said.
Visions for the property would mean the eventual destruction of that building, the final stage in a three-part build that will start with a six-storey technology-arts centre erected in the middle of the property. Resembling Accelerate Okanagan in Kelowna, the first floor would be a to-be-determined arts space. Knaak said he has been speaking with groups such as Kamloops Music Collective, Western Canada Theatre and Kamloops Arts Council to determine need from the arts community.
“What the arts community has said loud and clear for us is, ‘We’d love to expand a presence onto the North Shore,’” Knaak said. “And we’d love to see that happen as well.”
If all goes according to plan, businesses and Kamloops Innovation Centre would move upstairs. The non-profit organization aims to raise $10 million to pay for an expanded space accommodating more companies and workers in that building, as well more activities, including training.
“I think I’ll be telling the story of what’s possible in the building,” Smith said. “For us, for Kamloops Innovation, it’s a great opportunity. It doesn’t come around very often, so it’s our challenge to find the funding that will get our organization that is a non-profit into that building and be able to expand into it. We’ll be seeking support and having conversations with the city, having conversations with the province and there’s other funding agencies around capacity-building outside of Vancouver in the digital technologies and we’re already talking with them.”
Kamloops Innovation Centre is currently home to 16 technology companies and has space for about four or five more. The combined monthly payroll of companies engaged in centre programs is $1.1 million, Smith said, or $13.2 million per year.
The second phase of Arpa’s project would include an 85-room hotel at the corner of Tranquille and Clapperton, across the street from The Station and kitty-corner to Leon John’s deli.
Knaak said there is “tremendous” demand.
“You think about Mac Park,” he said. “It’s a year-round driver for tourism and this is an area of town that could use some hotel space. As soon as we started mentioning that, there were a lineup of people saying, ‘You build that hotel, we’ll buy it.’”
Knocking down the current Kamloops Innovation Centre would come last, paving way for a 35-unit, three-storey residential building similar to The Station, with commercial space below. Knaak said all of the commercial space at The Station is spoken for and 41 of 47 residential units have sold, including micro-suites.
North Shore Business Improvement Association executive director Jeremy Heighton said the North Shore has experienced challenges, but he sees the area changing in the next five years.
“You will see a buildout, I suspect, in the hundreds of thousands of square feet commercially and in the thousands of units residentially, just along this corridor,” he said. “When those things happen, that infill creates the conditions for Josh, developers, KIC, hotels, restaurants all to flourish.”
Heighton said he wants to recreate vibrancy dating back to the 1980s.
“Some of the fun, some of the festivities, some of the arts,” he said. “What we’re looking at is sort of that Gastown, Commercial Drive — really fun, funky and eclectic feel for the entire corridor.”
Arpa Investments seems to be going all in on that concept, also closing on the Overlander Press building on Tranquille, where Red Beard Cafe expects to expand with a takeout coffee shop that could be used as event space in the evenings.
Knaak has so far invested about $16 million in the area.
He moved to Kamloops in 2009, when he transferred to the city with Canadian Western Bank. The next job would have moved him, so he decided to go out on his own because he appreciated the lifestyle and community of Kamloops.
Asked what he sees in North Kamloops, Knaak said: “We’re seeing investment and participation from lots of different parties. We’re seeing it from the city. The city has said, ‘We need to invest in this North Shore corridor. We need to upgrade the roads. We need to upgrade the pedestrian sidewalks.’
“Again, a lot of this has been driven by the North Shore BIA. We need to improve the streetscape. Let’s deal with the trees. Let’s sink some money into here because they’re seeing developers invest here, as well. The other thing is just the market. I’m an ex-banker and so I financed a lot of construction projects. To see a project where you’ve got six units left at this stage of construction is great. Obviously, the market’s very hot right now. But it’s product people want to see in places where they want to live.”