About two weeks ago, Intrawest invited media, long-time Whistler Mountain pass holders and others with ties to Whistler dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, up to the new Roundhouse Lodge to a presentation/celebration of the Creekside redevelopment, part of the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy which had finally been approved a week earlier.
There was a scale model of the redevelopment plans available for all to see, and practically everyone agreed the redevelopment, as planned, was an improvement on the rag-tag collection of trailers and 30-plus-year-old buildings now at Creekside.
The presentation itself, which included a few words from Intrawest President Joe Houssian and an MTV-style video with a soundtrack from the ’60s and ’70s, placed a heavy emphasis on Whistler’s past, and Creekside as the place where Whistler originated. An unsolicited letter from Anthony Zebrowski Rubin, grandson of Walter Zebrowski, one of Whistler’s first developers, was held up as part of the inspiration for the Creekside redevelopment.
Comfortable, almost noble, words and images. If anyone doubted it was possible to get emotional about a real estate development, the Creekside presentation proved them wrong.
It’s understood that Intrawest needs to build and sell properties in order to bring about the redevelopment of Creekside that everyone wants, and to continue to improve facilities on the mountain. That the company respects and incorporates some of the area’s history in its plans is better than if it ignored that past. But the significance of the Creekside redevelopment may be overshadowed by the emphasis on the ’60s and ’70s. The Creekside redevelopment is all about Whistler in the 21st century.
Take, for example, the flood mitigation work on Whistler Creek, which will be completed this summer. This work was required before redevelopment could occur at Creekside but it will also allow development of an employee housing project at Beaver Flats. Employee housing is one of the keys to determining whether Whistler remains a vibrant town where residents and visitors mix together, or one where the employees all leave the valley at the end of the work day.
The Creekside redevelopment will include three major lodges, adding approximately 370 rooms to the area. That’s a lot of visitors staying in an area that has primarily been the domain of full-time residents and weekenders. Combined with a sizeable new retail area, the dynamics of the valley will change. People living or staying in the Creekside area will have fewer reasons to go to the village, which will have an impact on highway traffic and perhaps on the retailing business. As well, the development of the Spring Creek subdivision will significantly increase the local population living and shopping at the south end of the valley.
And Creekside will be one of the first manifestations of Whistler’s carrot-and-stick strategy to increase transit use and reduce reliance on the automobile. The underground day-skier lot will be pay parking, but the redevelopment will also include change rooms, lockers and showers, to encourage employees working at Creekside to bicycle or in-line skate to work. Additions and connections to the Valley Trail system are also part of the strategy and included in the Creekside plans.
No matter how much the past is evoked in architectural design and detail, the redeveloped Creekside is not going to be the same as it has been. It’s going to change the dynamics of the valley, perhaps as much as the original development at Creekside did.