Eight years after a devastating fire reduced Nelson’s historic Savoy Hotel to a derelict state, local entrepreneur Jimmy Bundschuh is looking to resurrect the venue with an ambitious development that will include a nightclub, cafe and music lounge.
“I never thought I’d have this opportunity. To have a piece of Baker Street is pretty huge,” Bundschuh told the Star last week, while sitting on the roof overlooking downtown. Best known to the community as the founding owner of Shambhala Music Festival, he purchased the property in 2013.
“Our intent is to create a mini-resort right on Baker Street. We want to cater to outdoor-oriented, culturally savvy visitors by providing healthy go-to food, an evening-oriented music lounge, a 12-room hotel with rooftop chill-out space, and a state of the art night club.”
Bundschuh’s partner Jenna Arpita said the development pairs nicely with their annual festival.
“It’s about keeping the vibrancy and the culture of Shambhala going for the rest of the year. We’re trying to create a hub, a place of connectedness and openness and bliss.”
In June the Savoy will unveil the first stage of their development when they open Bloom, a night club with a 300-person capacity.
Situated in the basement, the space will boast state-of-the-art visual effects and a world-class entertainment system installed by PK Sound.
When the Star visited on Thursday, construction crews were busily preparing the club for its opening in a few weeks. Arpita expressed her enthusiasm for the space, which will feature a living garden on one wall.
“This is really Jimmy’s brainchild. I just get to grow and maintain it. It’ll be a 30-foot long floor to ceiling vertical garden with tropical plants, begonias, that sort of thing. It will bring a lot of life into the environment, and oxygen.”
She noted that this means the venue will literally “bloom”, and she can’t wait to hear what the community thinks of their vision.
“It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, almost everyone in Nelson has had some sort of festive experience here, whether it was Kips, Twilight, Utopia, the Savoy Pub, Mazatlan … everyone has a night of memories from this place. I think it’s going to be really special for a lot of people to come back here.”
Originally a stable, the space is surrounded by historic stonework complete with coal chutes.
“The mortar was deteriorating so we chiseled it all out and put new concrete in there. We used some charcoal to contrast the colours. Now we plan to image-map it, so we can animate each stone differently,” Bundschuh said.
Arpita said the visual effects Shambhala is known for will be on proud display.
“Sometimes you’ll come in and you’re going to think you’re in an aquarium, swimming with the fish. But sometimes we’ll have folk players and we’ll light them nicely and leave it at that. We have 30,000 LEDs in there. We can have it be really subtle lighting or we can blow your head off.”
Bundschuh said the room is quite versatile.
“We didn’t want it to just be DJs, or just what we do at Shambhala. Nelson’s quite broad and diverse as a community, and we wanted to cater to that.”
With that in mind they have two primary stages—one for bands and one for DJs. They’ve extensively soundproofed the space to make sure the noise doesn’t travel between floors or into the surrounding area.
“We’ll also have earlier shows, like 8 p.m., because a lot of DJ sets start at people’s bedtimes,” said Arpita.
Standing beside the coal chute, Arpita and Bunschuh debated how to best utilize the space.
“I was thinking maybe we’d put a huge disco ball in there,” he said.
Once the night club is open, development will continue on the rest of the hotel.
As well as modern-styled, comfortable rooms, the hotel will boast a breakfast and lunch place called Farm Fresh Cafe and a high-ceiling, casual space called the Falls Music Lounge.
Farm Fresh will feature quick, healthy food and drinks for skiers and bikers to grab on-the-go, as well as a curbside patio. The lounge will feature BC-sourced food with beers, wine and spirits specifically oriented towards live music and entertainment.
Once the renovation has been completed, the building will essentially be brand new both inside and out. All the electrical and plumbing is being replaced, and they plan to develop the rooftop space so visitors can enjoy a view of Elephant Mountain and Kootenay Lake, perhaps even from a hot tub.
Bundschuh hopes the Savoy will become a Nelson landmark, welcoming visitors to town right at the foot of Baker St.
“The Kootenays has much to offer for adventurous holidays and mountain culture. Ultimately, the goal of the Savoy Hotel is to help showcase those qualities.”