Council to take on long-term lease for chamber 

Council sealed the fate of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce this week with a cheque for $300,000 to cover a 69-year lease at their new village location.

"We’re delighted with the support from the RMOW and the ability to get on with a very positive reception to the guests," said Brent Leigh, president of the chamber.

Under the arrangement the municipality will secure the lease for the visitor information centre and the chamber’s office space at the Gatehouse. This in turn will be subleased to the chamber, which must cover any maintenance costs and repairs and changes while occupying the space.

With only $200,000 in its war chest, the chamber was far short of securing the lease only a short month ago.

Rent in this prime village location next to the Blackcomb Lodge and the taxi and bus loops, is $400,000 for 69 years. The chamber has already made a down payment of $40,000 and will kick in another $60,000. The chamber is also responsible for another $100,000 in tenant improvements to the building over and above the cost of the lease.

Despite pitching for support from their traditional sponsorship partners, like American Express and Superpages, the chamber could only realize partial funding.

And so the organization appealed to the municipality for funding at the 11th hour, when all sponsorship opportunities failed to provide a viable financial deal to secure the rent at their new location.

"In a building of this quality to have this space for 70 years for $400,000 is a very good deal," said Leigh, standing in the unfinished visitor information centre this week.

He added the long-term lease deal was the least expensive option for the chamber, representing a savings of $10 per square foot on the monthly rental rate based on current calculations.

With the secured funding announced this week, chamber staff was busy moving out of their cramped Creekside trailer to their plush new two-floor location this week. Set to open on April 1, the new location is expected to increase visitor traffic two-fold. More than 120,000 visitors used the chamber’s information centres in 2000 but that number dropped considerably once construction began in Creekside.

"As much as we don’t feel nostalgic about leaving the trailer at Creekside, we had an absolutely wonderful landlord at that location for many years, not the least of which, we never issued one rent cheque to Intrawest!" said Leigh.

Even as the paint was drying on the walls, and as machines and fencing dotted the dirt pathway, two young women walked into the visitor information centre with a query during the chamber’s move.


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