When the Kootenay Co-op brought together its membership last week to unveil the dream of the future, the board of directors put no limits on the scope of what might happen in the 700 block of Vernon Street.
It’s still early in the process and those guiding the project want to gather member input first. Though leaving details of the future move of the grocery store open-ended, project manager Russell Precious did tell the crowd of almost 200 that there are two basic options: refurbish and keep it simple or pursue a more grand comprehensive plan that would entail levelling the current Extra Foods building to start from scratch.
It’s the latter that holds promise for reinvigorating the east end of the downtown and it’s one that should be given serious thought.
City planner Dave Wahn was one of the speakers at last Monday night’s meeting at the Best Western Baker Street Inn. He was brought in to talk about how the Co-op’s new location could fit in well with the city’s Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan.
A couple of ideas popped out during Wahn’s presentation.
The first was getting rid of dead space like the big windowless wall that currently lines Vernon Street. Wahn said the city would like to see the building become more approachable from the street level.
The second dealt with the huge parking lot that currently wraps around the building. Wahn suggested any new plan consider filling in much of the parking lot with features that would take away the ugliness of a paved nothingness. Parking is vital, but it can be done with much more flair.
We feel both of the city’s suggestions would go a long way in making the property a downtown treasure.
Tearing down the current building and developing a project that would include housing and other retail space is a forward looking approach. It would take money, time and risk, but the end result would be a major historical turning point for our city’s core.