Skiers Chapel, Chamber stay put for now
Intrawest cancels June 30 eviction date
By Chris Woodall
Two of Whistler's heritage buildings were to get the heave-ho from Creekside by June 30, but Intrawest has changed its plans.
Both the venerable grey A-framed multi-faith chapel and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce's log cabin visitor centre can stay at their Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road street corner for another two years, to May, 2000, Intrawest's Neil Rodgers announced at the chamber's log cabin, June 11.
Intrawest had planned to build a "destination centre" on the street corner, using part of it as a sales pavilion to pitch visitors on Intrawest's Whistler Station condo properties under construction in the next few years.
Instead, Intrawest will erect its sales pavilion across Lake Placid Road from Lake Placid Lodge. The corner development will come at a later date, thus giving the current tenants breathing space to find new digs.
"We'll be filing our application (to hammer up the sales pavilion) in the next couple of weeks with construction by mid-August and open for business by World Cup weekend, Dec. 6," Intrawest director of development Rodgers says, noting that all of that is subject to municipal approval of the plan.
The first properties to be sold out of the pavilion will be in the condo hotel to be built along what is now Rob Boyd Way, leading to the Whistler Ski Club cabin.
Intrawest recognized that both the chamber and the chapel society are under "a considerable challenge" to find alternate sites for their ancient (by Whistler standards) homes, Rodgers says. Intrawest has been working with the two groups to find new turf for the old buildings.
"Leases for both buildings have long since expired," Rodgers says.
The Skiers Chapel had been on its site by the grace of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation since the late 1980s, Rodgers says. The chamber has had a more formal tenant's lease for its building.
Both agreements were continued by Intrawest after it merged with Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. 18 months ago.
The June 30 date to have both structures moved was more of a legal song and dance by Intrawest to peg down that part of its redevelopment plans for Creekside, Rodgers says, meaning the June 30 date was never really carved in stone tablets.
The corner is still coveted by Intrawest as the perfect place for its discovery centre: a place where visitors get their first "gateway" look at Whistler.
Visitor parking, information about sights and services for the area, and a wee park are part of the designs for the centre, to be housed in a 7,000-square-foot building.
Intrawest would have needed only 2,000 square feet of space in the centre to sell its properties.
"Development on this corner is at least three years out, but there will be some minor improvements for signage and landscaping," Rodgers says of the site.
Because of that, Intrawest will move the sales pavilion to a "permanent" building that, when built this year, will be part of a mini-mall along Lake Placid Road where the day skier parking lot is now.
"At 1,900 square feet, it fits our space requirements," Rodgers says.
It'll also have a prominent in-your-face location for skiers heading up or down Whistler Mountain.
Part of the over-all Whistler Station development, this area will consist of small clustered buildings each with its own design characteristics reflecting older Whistler/rural architecture.
Grounds floors will have retail spaces, upper floors will have condos.
This particular building will have three distinct facades to make it look like a trio of buildings, Rodgers says. The final look is still on the drawing board.
"Sales staff would also sell The Peaks and Taluswood properties out of there," Rodgers says of the sales office.
Once everything it can sell is sold — perhaps in five-plus years from now — Intrawest will lease the sales pavilion space to a lucky retailer.
Representatives from both the Skiers Chapel and the Chamber of Commerce were pleased with the eviction reprieve.
"Thank you for considering us," chamber president Ron Hosner and Ken Nickerson for the Skiers Chapel Society told Rodgers.
"I know it's been a long process for Intrawest and Neil (Rodgers), but this helps us get our funding in place (for the chamber's new home in Whistler Village)," Hosner says.
"It's important we have this cabin as a 'store front' presence in this area," Hosner says.
"Hopefully the chamber can continue to have a store front presence," Rodgers says of the chamber occupying space in the discovery centre or another smaller building planned next to it. "It keeps the significance of a gateway here. People need information and the Chamber of Commerce presence is one way for them to get that."
No plans have been made regarding the chamber's log cabin, Hosner says.
"I can tell you there'd be a lineup of people to make use of this building, but it has its weaknesses and would need a lot of work to make it liveable," Hosner says of the log cabin that was erected with the help of volunteers.
As an example, Hosner noted the cabin is not very well insulated. "It's served its purpose," he says.
Several new locations for the Skiers Chapel have been bruited about, including the top of Whistler Mountain where it would be a drop-in multi-faith facility and earn some bucks as a wedding chapel.