The Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is on the move.
The non-profit, which delivers a range of social services in the community and operates the food bank, Re-use-It Centre and Re-Build-It Centre, signed an agreement with the RMOW this week to lease land for the construction of a new Community Social Services building, relocating from its current spot in Spring Creek. The new facility will be located at 7600 Nesters Road behind the Whistler Animals Galore shelter.
"Historically Whistler's been so great to WCSS, the Re-Use-it, Re-Build-It and all the other programs we are involved with and we just hope that relationship continues as strong as it has been and we look forward to serving the community in the future for many years to come" said Doug Treleaven, chairman of the WCSS board.
As part of the relocation, the Re-Build-It Centre will move to the current location of the Re-Use-It Centre on Lynham Road in Function. Meanwhile, the Re-Use-It Centre will take up shop in the new Nesters facility, which is expected to boost the store's sales.
"The location in and of itself is going to be fantastic," said WCSS executive director Cheryl Skribe. "It's going to be centrally located, and having that connection between the Re-Use-It Centre and what we do at the store level, and having people understand that all of that goes towards the funding of social services on the programming side, is going to be great."
Both stores contribute a significant chunk of funding to WCSS for its social programming. In 2014, the Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres combined brought in $1.4 million in revenue.
By moving the Re-Build-It Centre, WCSS will also save the $60,000 a year it spends to lease its current Alpha Lake Road location.
Now, with a new facility within walking distance of the village, the WCSS is also gearing up for an increase in the number of people accessing its services.
"From a location perspective, it's difficult to get (to the Spring Creek building), so you either need to have someone drive you by car or have a car, or you work around the bus schedule," Skribe said. "Now we're going to have a location that is much more suitable to (community outreach). We're going to be able to expand capacity as far as being able to have more outreach workers, and potentially work seven days a week depending on the demand."
The society has seen a significant increase in demand for its services in recent years. In 2010, WCSS facilitated 500 one-on-one meetings with outreach workers. That number is expected to top 2,000 this year, Skribe said.
The relocation is also good news for Whistler's waste diversion efforts, according to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"I think the impact will be significant because it may be tempting for somebody just to toss a piece of clothing into the compactor rather than drag it all the way down to Function," she said. "If the Re-Use-It Centre is just a few steps away, I think that will encourage people to make that effort."
As part of the terms of the lease, the municipality will lend WCSS $850,000 — half the expected total construction cost — from the proposed 2017 budget. WCSS will pay back the loan over 50 years, with a minimum yearly payment of $17,000.
At Tuesday's meeting of council, officials also agreed to grant WCSS a five-year permissive tax exemption for the building, with the option to renew the exemption for every additional five-year period. Other related fees, like rezoning and building permit fees, will also be waved by the RMOW where permissible.
The final building design is expected for completion by the end of the year, with construction on this "purpose-built" facility anticipated to begin in early 2017. The non-profit is aiming to take up occupancy by Nov. 30, 2017.
At its March 15 meeting, Whistler Council also passed the first two readings of a zoning amendment bylaw for the land at 7600 Nesters Road, which will also house the new Nesters Waste Depot.
Pick up next week's Pique for more information.
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