A to G in our annual review of local business wheeling and dealing.
A — Antidote Processing. With an audience of politicians, economic development leaders and a cast of Kootenay legacy growers, the Slocan Junction cannabis processing and licensing services facility’s December open house reflects a promising new chapter in the so-far cost-prohibitive saga of Canada’s fumbled aims to legalize weed.
“Cracks are showing in the big companies,” says Velvet Kavanagh, Kootenay Cannabis Council co-ordinator and owner of Phenologic Consulting. “Consumers are becoming more interested and aware of craft cultivators, and they starting to seek out those products.”
Local licensed producers who’ve moved slow and steady are starting to reap what they’ve grown. Ymir’s Sweetgrass Cannabis and Kootenay’s Finest, on the East Shore, are making hay. Companies like Kootenay Cultivar and Salmo’s Rosebud Cannabis Farm are on track too. Then there’s the Green Light Solutions juggernaut on the North Shore, which has received Health Canada licences to cultivate and sell their brands Woody Nelson and LoFi CBD. Green Light’s proprietary environmental control and building management technologies speak to the company’s big-picture vision to find a place in future-ready, climate-resilient agricultural production.
Want to get a better idea of what exactly went wrong with the federal and provincial governments’ effort to legalize grass? Read a copy of The High North: Cannabis in Canada by Slocan Valley industrial cannabis expert Clay McCann and co-author Andrew Hathaway. One of the book’s take-aways: the astonishing level of corporate malfeasance and stock promoters who pumped and dumped the industry to a pulp before it even fired up.
B — Baker Street basements. A story that was literally underground and under reported, the catastrophic flooding that destroyed the inventory and basement premises of five main street businesses in May was an omen of bigger issues to come for shops and shoppers along Nelson’s vibrant retail strip.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage was done when an antiquated water main burst in the middle of a May night, and belched three metres of stink and sludge into subterranean storage areas, including a recording studio packed with tens of thousands of dollars worth of instruments.
Cottonwood Kitchens, Barker Street Pet Spa, Kootenay Chocolate, Shannon’s Fabrics, Tribute Boardshop, Mallard’s Source for Sports, Eddy Music and KC Restaurant were all damaged. Some are still waiting for full insurance pay outs.
The city denied responsibility, but noted that Baker’s end-of-lifetime water and sewer will be replaced. There’s the rub. Or maybe the racket. Like the successful $3 million Hall Street Stores to Shores project that ran through the summer of 2015, the Baker revitalization is going to mean road closures, sidewalk shutdowns, parking shortages and all the dust and muck-raking that goes glove in glove with projects of this size. The city has floated the idea of tackling one to two blocks a year, one side at time, but not until 2024 at the earliest.
C — Chamber of Commerce. Like it was for all the 1,300 Nelson and area businesses the Chamber advocates for, 2022 was the third daunting year in a row for executive director Tom Thomson and the crew at the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Following a strong rebrand that promo-ed the Chamber as “Business Buddies With Benefits,” the Chamber — here since 1893 — took big steps in broadening its inclusivity and approachability.
The third year of a global pandemic gave way to doom-n-gloom recessionary talk, an unprecedented nation-wide housing and labour shortage with a few near-biblical floods and fires just to keep everyone on the ledge’s edge. With the support of leaders at Community Futures Central Kootenay and the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership, there’s a reason the Nelson Chamber has attracted more members per capita than other western Canadian chambers Nelson’s size. Consider that with masks on, the Chamber went door-to-door mid-pandemic reminding everyone to shop local — and they did.
Campaigns were launched to promote disaster preparedness, business and climate action advisement, economic recovery assistance and the comprehensive State of the Sectors series. The well-received analysis of the pandemic’s impact on the region’s food and beverage, development and construction, and retail sectors, resulted in 45 recommendations for all levels of government.
D — Development. Back in September, when asked to find a comparable year in which the city had built as many new buildings as it did in 2022, city manager Kevin Cormack had to blow the cobwebs off his history book.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he told council, “maybe since the mining boom of 1898.”
Before autumn had set in, Sebastian Arcand and his increasingly on-point Development Services and Engineering crew had issued 177 permits for single and multi-dwelling units and secondary suites — compared to 46 by the previous fall. While the city is seeing a near-viral outbreak of residential infills ranging from top-notch to toaster-esque, the elephants in the room are hunkered down at either end of town.
With a vision to one day build an array of 210 residential units, a 78-slip marina, commercial spaces and public foreshore and trail amenities on the Kootenay Forest Product property, Vancouver’s Pacific Swell Developments will be purchasing the 12-acre parcel from Calgary owner Keith Prosser. But not until work on the delayed new $63-million Kootenay Lake Ferry is completed, in 2024.
Like the KFP property, the promising Railtown neighbourhood parcel is complicated by costly remediation and infrastructure requirements, a patchwork of property owners and government jurisdictions, and some lukewarm support from the city on the matter of who pays for water and sewer, and when. A large swath of the Railtown grounds was taken off the market for six months last year while a group of developers crunched numbers and drafted potential site plans. But many builders have put down their pencils until the recessionary winds wane.
E — Economist. Around since 1843, and a seemingly reliable centrist read on big picture economic and political issues, here’s what The Economist has to say about global dollars and sense, or lack thereof, last year and this, all of which may one way or another trickle down to our households and hometowns:
Inflation of 10 per cent year-on-year across the rich world has slashed household incomes. Investors have lost out and global stock markets have plunged by 20 per cent. A third of the world will be hit by recession in 2023. And a few headlines from the Year Ahead issue: Politics will move further to the left in 2023, but there is little appetite for radical change. A whole new global energy system is emerging, but it involves some uncomfortable compromises. And for music buffs: National anthems have fallen behind the times. It’s time to update them.
F — For sale or rent. There are a couple of big residential developments that are selling their inventories quickly. With a completion date set for June 2023, seven of the 10 high end one- and two-storey townhouse developments in Baker Street’s Deane Terrace project are sold. The remaining three will go to market this spring.
Pricing and townhouse floor plans for the first phase of Culos Development’s 85-unit Shoreline project will be released this month. Sales manager Kristina Little anticipates building will start early this year, with four phases built over the four years. The first phase will include 11 units, the second eight and the third nine. Plans also call for a 57-unit condo block, two commercial spaces and a marina.
Wayne Woodward’s five-storey, 46-unit 514 Victoria St. project appears close to completion. Realtor John Knox is handling sales. Over two dozen units had been sold as of early last year. The six-storey seniors housing project on Vernon Street is in the midst of infrastructure installment. It’s being built by Kelowna’s Vendure Retirement Communities. The Nelson Health Campus 75-bed long-term care seniors’ care facility— touted by Victoria as the future of B.C. health care — is slated to open in 2024.
G — Gerrard Station. If there was ever a Cinderella-story-in-the-waiting, it’s the four-storey concrete castle at 45 Government Rd. While the $14.6-million Nelson Cannabis Collective pot growing/packaging and retail dream went up in smoke due mostly to the legal weed market train wreck and COVID-19, the new project, re-branded as Gerrard Station, could help set the tone for development in the promising Railtown neighbourhood.
Designed by Cover Architects and listed with Fair Realty’s Tristan Chart, the 35,000 square foot venue is looking to land tenants needing office, retail or light industrial space. The Boston Pizza chain has posted the opportunity for a first-floor franchisee, which would require an interior fit-out ranging from $1.4 million to $1.9 million.
Gerrard’s ownership group of Canadian Music Hall of Fame agent Sam Feldman, Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine co-publisher Mitchell Scott and Retallack resort owner Phil Pinfold and his brother, are also open to residential development on a few floors. Makes sense considering the city’s drastic shortage of housing, and the fact Nelson’s demand for commercial space was partially met by the MacDonald Development Corporation’s recent purchase and stratification of the 70,000 square foot former Pacific Insight property, just five minutes down the highway.