Phoenix put to rest 

Temporary housing project cancelled; local businesses scramble to find alternative accommodation

click to enlarge Jobs Yes, Beds No Accommodation is a bigger obstacle this year for resort workers, such as these Whistler-Blackcomb applicants at a past job fair. Phoenix would have provided 308 temporary beds to employers.
  • Jobs Yes, Beds No Accommodation is a bigger obstacle this year for resort workers, such as these Whistler-Blackcomb applicants at a past job fair. Phoenix would have provided 308 temporary beds to employers.

One month after the Phoenix Board first announced their temporary housing complex was on shaky ground, the project to house 308 Whistler employees from this winter through the 2010 Olympics has been proclaimed dead.

The announcement came Monday, after the top three interested suppliers told the board they could not make the project work given current constraints.

“When it came to it, they did not feel it made sense for them,” said Phoenix project spokesperson Brian Good, who is also general manager of employee experience for Whistler-Blackcomb.

“We, unfortunately, made the announcement to businesses last night. We are not moving ahead. We are back to individual businesses trying to find houses.”

Good was not able to name the three suppliers who were interested in the Phoenix project, but said they were all reputable companies from British Columbia.

He added that he is preparing for participating businesses’ mixed reactions now that the temporary housing complex is no longer happening.

“I just hope that people will not only recognize that we have made every effort that we could, but also that we’ve come away knowing that we need a long-term solution,” said Good.

The Phoenix project was started earlier this year as a two-winter solution to Whistler’s housing crunch. By the fall of 2010 the Olympic athletes’ village will become resident-restricted housing and the Rainbow development will add to the pool of resident housing.

After concerted efforts by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the municipality and others to push the Phoenix project forward, in late August, the Phoenix board revealed that supplier SG Blocks was short $3 million. The following week, the American supplier was dropped from the project.

Since that time, several interested companies approached the Phoenix Board to see if they might be able to make the project happen. The board reviewed the top three proposals but set a Sept. 22 deadline to make a final decision on whether or not to carry the project forward.

Now that Phoenix is defunct, the 42 businesses that put down payments on the temporary housing will have to find alternative accommodation for their employees in an already tight rental market.

Marla Zucht, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA), said the housing crunch appears to be greater this year than before.

“We were seeing it in August with new employees arriving in town and already coming into our office,” said Zucht, who is also a member of the Phoenix Board.

“That is an unusual scenario. We would not have experienced that in the past years. It would usually be October that some people would make their way into our office.”

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