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BUSINESS BUZZ: Pacific Insight building sells, Boston Pizza eyes Railtown

Darren Davidson has the latest on Nelson’s business news
Power and the People — This fine looking group of local yokels won a tour of Nelson Hydro’s vital and fascinating facilities a few Saturdays ago. The utility — one of the few municipal-owned hydro providers in Western Canada — is holding its 2023 Budget and Proposed Rate Increase open house Thursday, Sept 29, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Nelson Innovation Centre. Photo: Tamarack Media

by Darren Davidson

The Pacific Insight saga — one that came with the painful loss of a few hundred local jobs and the departure of major corporate pillar in town — is coming to a close.

Having operated in Nelson since 1989, the automotive electronic and lighting manufacturer was purchased by Chicago-based multinational Methode for $144-million in 2018, in a deal that included a promise there’d be no changes to the workforce.

But in 2019, the entire operation was moved south to Mexico.

The good news now? Sixteen months after it went on the market for $5.5 million, the 70,000 square foot building just west of town has been purchased by the MacDonald Development Corporation. The selling price hasn’t been disclosed.

The Vancouver business, with offices in Calgary and Phoenix, is run by highly regarded developers John and Rob MacDonald. The company has built up a diverse portfolio of assets, commercial and mostly residential properties all across North America — everything from Surrey’s 400-unit Prime Tower, the redevelopment of a former Department of National Defence building in Calgary and a colossal current project, the 550-acre, 1,365-unit Lakestone development near Kelowna. The MacDonalds even have a share of Hy’s of Canada — the nation’s top-shelf steakhouse chain.

According to Colliers Canada realtor Stephen Webber, plans for the Pacific Insight property are to stratify the big building into smaller light industrial and commercial units that’ll be available for sale or lease by the summer of 2023.

“The company sees the value in the community, and the need for space in the industrial market in particular,” Webber says. The building will essentially become a hub for small businesses looking for office, warehouse and even light manufacturing space.

All of the strata work is being done by local contractors and will make room for a wide variety of tenants, says Webber — small tech ops, offices, an auto or detailing shop, a gym, small warehouse spaces, you name it.

Webber says the property was actually under contract twice, but both arrangements fell though. Colliers received dozens of calls about the Pacific Insight parcel, most from smaller businesses that need just a fraction of the square footage.

Kootenay Commercial Real Estate Services’ Tristan Chart, licensed by Fair Realty, is the local agent to call if you’re interested in any of the future spaces.


There’s good news for the folks who built the former Nelson Cannabis Collective too.

Eleven months after the failed four-story growing operation and proposed retail pot venue began searching for public investment in the $14.6-million plan, the building — now branded as Gerrard Station — has found a few potential tenants.

Hobbled in part by a nation-wide collapse in legal weed prices and challenging federal regulatory demands, the NCC had to cancel its plans last December, but relaunched as a commercial leasing space, on the edge of Nelson’s up-and-coming Railtown District.

The Boston Pizza chain is interested in opening a 5,000 square foot space in Gerrard Station’s first floor. First though, the chain needs to find a franchisee to grab the reigns. According to, beyond the costs of a building shell — which is already in place — a standard BP interior fit-out ranges from $1.4 million to $1.9 million including soft costs, which depend on the market, restaurant size and time of year.

BP’s interest speaks to Railtown’s potential. About five years ago, the chain opened a few new concept-restaurants aimed at condo-dwelling crowd in urban areas.

Beyond BP, Gerrard Station’s principals say they are in negotiations with a second potential tenant interested in leasing 10,000 feet of space.

A side note: one of BP’s first franchise owners was Dragons Den TV star Jim Treliving, now the majority owner of the North American-wide chain, with close to 400 restaurants in Canada alone, and over $900 million in annual revenue.


By the time lawn mowing and mountain biking season is back next summer, you’ll likely be able to get a real live pint at the Nelson Brewing Company’s legendary Latimer Street location.

After a lot of folks said it would never happen, it has. Congrats to owners Kate and Matt Walker, who’ve received approval from the city to apply for a licence that will allow them to serve full beers, instead of flights of smaller glasses. The Walkers say they’ll be lightly renovating their tasting room, but that capacity will stay about the same.

Talk about hugging lagers and saving the ales. The first-ever Kootenay Beer Festival got a big hand from Mother Nature when a series of deluge-y days retreated a few Saturday’s ago. Over 700 people plus 16 breweries, a local distiller, cider maker and a few eateries attended the event, ideally located in the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Info Centre parking lot. Cheers to next year’s.


Annnnnd, we’re back. The Chamber’s always festive Business After Business events reboot post-pandemic this week. The latest BAB-er runs at Finleys from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, at Devito’s Shoes in October and at Kootenai Moon in November.

The Chamber’s annual Gala Dinner and Auction shifts from the Prestige up to Selkirk College’s Mary Hall this year. It’ll be held Dec. 3. Get your tickets quick, they always go fast.


There are some big anniversaries to note, with more details to come. Cowan’s Office Supplies is celebrating 50 years, Wheelers Upholstery is celebrating its 45th and Val Seminuk’s aforementioned Kootenai Moon is now 25.

B.C.’s do-it-yourself decorating diva Maria Killam held a workshop at Kootenai Moon last month. Killam’s advice has been included in dozens of magazines including Style At Home, Canadian Living and Better Homes and Gardens.

In an interview on Kootenay Co-op Radio’s Kootenay Morning current affairs show, Killam made an interesting observation on the ubiquitous popularity of the colour black in exterior and even interior paint choices as of late. It’s a great colour, but she says, black may lack some permanence and staying power over the years ahead. Lots of painters are burning though the noir pantones if you look around town, both commercially and residentially.

Speaking of KCR, the community station has hired on a new journalist. John Rune, who hails from Sweden. He’s worked for a variety of national and community newspaper and broadcast platforms, from Sweden’s military news site to Nelson’s Bridge FM.


Lastly, there’s a very important municipal election coming up in less than a month.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, old timers and newcomers alike need to get out and make well-informed votes. Now that the pandemic has waned, immigration to town, fuel and food costs, interest rates, the temperature, house prices, home availabilities, urgent job postings — everything — is increasing. Our communities, not as idyllic as they once were, are changing. Fast. The city, having acquired over $30 million in federal and provincial funding to pay for major projects of all sorts, will have to juggle the same very real financial pressures that families are facing over the next few years.

Mayors, councillors, Regional District directors and school trustees are the ones who’ll be making the decisions, not all of them popular.

Make sure to pick the right people for the job. Being a public servant or politician has never been more difficult. Win or lose, everyone who’s tossed their name in the hat, out of care and courage, deserves sincere thanks from us all. Candidates are showing true community support by even putting their hands up for the job — not a barrel of monkeys.

As the old saying goes, everyone wants to save the world. But no one wants to do the dishes.

So long for September!