Ejecting Kamloops' last video-rental store?

The last remaining video-rental store in Kamloops is at a crossroads, but MovieMart's uncertain future has more to do with the city's hot housing market than Netflix.

Total Concept Developments has submitted plans to the city to build a mixed-use commercial and residential development at 444 Seymour St. Total Concept manager Sheila Minten said the six-storey project will include at least some rental housing and about 100 units.

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"It's going to be huge," she said.

Minten said the demand for housing, for purchase and rent, makes now the right time to put something new on the property.

"There's such a rental shortage," she said. "We own other rental properties and this is the lowest vacancy rate we've ever had."

That means MovieMart and other businesses on the property are beginning searches for new homes.

MovieMart owner and city councillor Denis Walsh said he had visited another property downtown that didn't work out and is also considering the possibility of a move across the river.

"I don't know if that's the right move. It's hard for me to determine, but we have a lot of customers on the North Shore," he said.

MovieMart has outlasted video rental giants including Blockbuster, which went bankrupt in 2010, and locally owned businesses Valleyview Video Mart and Brock Video Mart, which closed in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

MovieMart is now in its 35th year of operation and Walsh said he would like to keep it open, if possible.

"We have six people employed. It's not making a lot of money, but it is paying for itself," he said.

There would also be the question of what to do with the 20,000-plus films in the store's collection.

"It's an asset, I think, for the community to have that library there," he said.

But, while the store pays for itself, Walsh said it may not pay for the costs of moving, which could reach as high as $10,000 depending on what kind of work a new location requires.

He is hoping to find a place by September, if he can locate a suitable spot.

Walsh said one issue is a new location that would require parking, a requirement which rules out some downtown spots.

"I'm kind of at a 50-50 point on whether to continue with it, but if I find a good location. I will move," he said. Shorthanded city council a concern The fate of his 35-year-old video store isn't Coun. Denis Walsh's only concern when it comes to a new housing development planned for 444 St. Paul St.

Walsh is concerned the approximately 100-unit housing and commercial development proposed by Total Concept Developments could fall victim to delays due to Kamloops' shorthanded city council.

The nine-person council is down to six members due to the resignations of Mayor Peter Milobar (elected MLA) and councillors Marg Spina (undergoing treatment for cancer) and Ken Christian (running for mayor in Sept. 30 byelection).

Because Total Concept is Walsh's MovieMart landlord, voting on whether to allow the project to go ahead would represent a conflict of interest for him. And, with rental units forming at least a portion of the building's offerings, Deputy Mayor Arjun Singh, whose family owns rental properties, would also recuse himself from the vote.

That leaves only four councillors left to debate the development -- one shy of the five required for a quorum of council.

"This is a side effect of this short council," Walsh said. "If we had a quorum of four people, we'd be fine, but it's five as if we still have these nine people."

Total Concept manager Sheila Minten said she's not sure if the project would typically go before council before mid-October, when two new councillors and a mayor will be sworn in following the byelection, bringing council back to full strength.

-- Andrea Klassen

© Kamloops This Week


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