Pastor Jim Reimer doesn’t give up easily. He’s been plugging away at various plans to build low-cost housing in Nelson for many years. A council decision on Monday has given him a significant boost.
The SHARE Housing Society is planning to build a $10-million, five-storey building with 39 one-bedroom units plus some commercial space on its property on Falls Street (see maps below).
Reimer, the society’s president, said BC Housing is on board to provide major funding to the project on the condition that he can subdivide the property into two parcels, one for his existing building and the other for the proposed building.
The existing building currently houses the Kootenay Christian Fellowship, SHARE Nelson, Our Daily Bread and the SPCA. The new building would be constructed behind it on Herridge Lane.
To subdivide the property in a way that works for his housing project, Reimer needed two bylaw variances from the city, one related to access and the other to parking. Council approved both on Monday.
“I think it is fantastic,” Reimer said after the meeting. “I am very happy they were able to see through some of the challenges in this project. This was a big milestone.”
The access issue was about road width. Council agreed to reduce the required width of the road access from Falls Street from 20 metres to six metres. Access from Baker Street beside the Best Western’s parking lot at the back of the property was deemed unsuitable by the Ministry of Transportation and Highways because of its proximity to the intersection of Baker Street and Highway 3A. That route may only be used for emergency access. Access from Falls Street will also be aided by elimination of two parking stalls in front of the Savoy.
Council also granted the society a parking reduction from 80 stalls to 34 stalls for the existing building. The 80 stalls, many of which now exist where the new development will occur, was the result of a covenant made in 1987 to accommodate parking for the now-defunct bowling alley.
The city’s planning manager Pam Mierau told council that a recent traffic study has shown that the projected increase in traffic in the area as a result of the project “is not considered significant and will have minimal impact on the adjacent intersections.”
Plans presented to council included some complex details on how regular and emergency vehicles would navigate the property.
“There were some challenges with that lot, how do you get into it and how do you get out of it, but we were able to meet those challenges.” Reimer said. “BC Housing has given us some funding to get to this stage, and now we will be approaching them and see if we can get to the development stage, so we are feeling all systems are go.”
The proposed new development is for 123 square metres of ground floor commercial and five storeys of rental residential units with an average unit size of 430 square feet.
“It’s a very exciting building, unique to Nelson,” Reimer said. “There will be amenity spaces on the roof, it is a premium spot for low cost housing, it will be sought after. The development is going to be single units with an outdoor walkway.”
Reimer hopes construction will start this year. He said he has not been developing a tenant waiting list but “in a previous project we tried to do, I got 50 people in one week.”
Also starting construction this year will be 47 low-income units at 805 Nelson Ave., developed by Nelson CARES.