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.