The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce celebrated the near-completion of renovations to the city’s historic train station Saturday during its sold-out annual gala dinner at the Prestige Lakeside Resort.
“We now begin a new chapter that began with the acquisition of the old CPR station in 2010 and the belief great things can be accomplished with the support of local business,” president Ed Olthof told the crowd. “That belief has been realized through the last five years with the building’s transformation from a derelict wreck to a beautiful regional asset.”
This month, the chamber moved its office from Hall St. to the historic building at the foot of Baker St., which will be converted to a new regional visitor gateway. It will also be home to Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, the Nelson Star, and other businesses.
Olthof thanked manager Tom Thomson for overseeing the project and noted the chamber has 530 members, a greater number than any similar-sized city in BC. He said the “entrepreneurial spirit” in the Nelson area has been a constant since the chamber was incorporated in 1893 as the South Kootenay Board of Trade.
Thomson joked the CPR station is a “two-story building. There’s a story at the beginning when they tell you how much it’s going to cost. Then there’s the story at the end when it actually comes in … It took five years to complete, but it’s an awesome building.”
Mayor Deb Kozak, a former chamber board member, recalled looking at a model of the train station years ago and thinking “‘One day this is going to become a reality’ — and it has.”
“I cannot believe how much controversy that one bylaw caused and am happy to say it’s [now] working well,” she said. “Thank you downtown businesses for doing your part. You’ve done everything from putting out doggie treats to handling out leashes to helping our bylaw enforcement officers.”
Kozak acknowledged, however, that the city is now considering adopting a panhandling bylaw, another contentious issue, although the discussion has been postponed until April. She said she was counting on the business community for input and help to design a local solution.
“Those are the small things,” she insisted. “They cause a lot of uproar in a community, but we’re frying bigger fish. We have our eye on the future in a bigger way.”
Kozak mentioned the renovation of Hall St. as another thing that “caused a lot of controversy and conversation, but the end result is something we can be proud of.” She thanked businesses directly affected for their patience over the summer.
She also said the availability of broadband service provides opportunities. “We have a wonderful place to live, we’re investing in technology. Our business community is investing. We’re ready for whatever is coming.”
The gala is also the chamber’s biggest fundraiser. The live auction alone raised $9,760.