CITY HALL – Hush-hush search for a ‘better idea’ for Kamloops Daily News site comes up empty-handed

Parking lot behind Kamloops Daily News building. (Image: ArmchairMayor file photo)

A year-long search for a “better idea” for the former Kamloops Daily News site on the corner of Fourth and Seymour will end with the smack of a wrecking ball, if City council accepts a recommendation from staff next week.

A recommendation is expected to go to council at Tuesday’s regular meeting that none of the nine proposals received for redeveloping the prime downtown site be accepted, and that instead it be turned into a parking lot, full circle from where the saga began.

The expectation is that it would initially be turned into asphalt surface parking, with a parkade in the cards for the long-term. The property includes the lot on which the building sits, and a parking lot across the back alley.

Radio NL today (April 21, 2017) is quoting City chief administrative officer David Trawin as confirming the parking-lot option.

“You know obviously the proposal we looked at didn’t turn out but I don’t see how you can call it a waste of time. Council put a year hold on the demolition in order for us to look at those proposals and none of them worked out,” Trawin told NL.

Mayor Peter Milobar had offered assurances just a couple of weeks ago that an announcement on the future of the building would be forthcoming very shortly. Speculation had centred on a commercial-retail-residential development as the front runner. It’s now believed a deal with one of the proponents was in the offing but fell through.

Trawin told CBC Daybreak this morning that the site could “potentially” become a parking lot but it has to be finalized by council first. Tuesday’s report will outline the process, which would involve getting cost estimates on demolition. Then it would come back for final approval.

“It just didn’t work out,” Trawin said of the attempt at finding alternatives. “Council felt the values weren’t there.” He said the one proposal that was investigated involved “multiple developers and multiple sites.”

“I’m gobmacked,” said Bruce Thompson of the Downtown Neighbourhood Association, which had proposed a reworked plan for a performing arts centre.

“You guys have been screwing around with this for a year and this is what you want to do?” he asked rhetorically in an interview with Kamloops This Week, directing his remarks toward  the City.

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

He followed up those comments during an interview with CBC radio, saying, “With five days notice you guys are going to demolish a building that we think is worth keeping.” Thompson said his group’s proposal would have involved a retro-fit of the existing building, plus parking, for about two-thirds of the cost proposed in a referendum.

“Floored. Completely floored,” he told Daybreak’s Shelley Joyce, saying he received an email about 3 p.m. on Thursday from City real estate manager Dave Freeman telling him of the decision not to proceed with any of the proposals.

KTW quoted the email, which said, “Of the 9 responses initially received, additional information and project details were requested from one respondent to assist to the evaluation of their proposal.”

The email, re-published online by the newspaper, said a report will go to the regular council meeting next Tuesday, April 25, with a recommendation that detailed design and costing be done for a surface parking lot.

The building has been vacant since the Daily News closed its doors in January, 2014.

When the City purchased the property for $4.8 million, the original or, at least, backup plan was for a parking lot, then it was chosen as the site for a performing arts centre. A referendum on a $91-million PAC was rejected by voters a year and a half ago, and demolition of the building — constructed as a Hudson’s Bay department store in the mid-1950s — was proposed by staff.

Instead, council decided to ask the public and developers for alternative proposals. The deadline for receipt of those proposals closed a year ago.

The entire process was kept hush-hush, until word started floating around yesterday that none of the proposals would be recommended for acceptance.

About Mel Rothenburger (6015 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on CITY HALL – Hush-hush search for a ‘better idea’ for Kamloops Daily News site comes up empty-handed

  1. RIH could use this building to do hospital laundry and to prepare meals for the hospital it’s closer than Vernon or Salmon Arm where I believe these two meals and laundry are done.

  2. But…this isn’t a done deal, right? This is just an administrative staff recommendation? If I were on Council, I would vote against the recommendation – wouldn’t…anyone?

  3. Appalling, truly appalling and from the very beginning..and the so-called mayor of this city want to govern us from Victoria…

  4. Trawin told CBC Daybreak this morning that of all nine (9) proposals they only looked at one (1).
    WHY only ONE (1)?
    The Big Little Science Centre could make great use of the space.

  5. realityofroughingit // April 21, 2017 at 11:16 AM // Reply

    For those of us “locals” that grew up in Kamloops in the fifties and sixties, there are a lot of memories in that building. The HBC was the biggest department store in town. The exterior finish of the building has always impressed me, it has never needed any maintenance or repair other than washing, and for it’s era, has always looked classic.

  6. Ridiculous. The proposals should at the very least be made public, why did the city purchase the property in the first place, with tax dollars, if they had no plan. What a fools paradise that council is, time for change, time for some dynamic and progressive thinking.

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