Elected officials this week paved the way for construction to begin on Whistler Blackcomb’s (WB) long-awaited Glacier 8 apartment building, a project nearly five years in the making that will add dozens of units of staff accommodation to Blackcomb's Base II.
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, council greenlit a development permit authorizing the six-storey, 66-unit apartment—with several conditions attached. Called “Building 8,” the apartment will be added to WB’s existing staff housing complex at 4800-4814 Glacier Lane.
Vail Resorts, WB’s parent company, is aiming to begin construction as early as this spring, and, at least according to local officials, it can’t come soon enough.
“I hope they can get into the ground soon and get going. It’s very needed,” said Councillor Cathy Jewett.
Considered under the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) Private Employee Housing Initiative, the project was first floated in 2018 as a way to help address Whistler’s longstanding housing shortage. Vail Resorts submitted a rezoning application for the site, nestled between lots 6 and 7 in the Blackcomb Benchlands South neighbourhood, in 2019. Since then, the core elements of the project have largely remained, although minor changes have been factored into the design, such as relocating the entrance to a planned communal space.
The proposed building will be similar in architectural style to WB’s other Glacier Lane buildings, although it is slightly taller, which RMOW staff said would have “minimal” visual impact on the adjacent properties. Once completed, Glacier 8 will feature 60 two-bedroom units with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, four accessible one-bedroom units, and two studio units earmarked for “temporary respite,” all on 3,956 square metres of gross floor area.
The facility will also include a number of shared amenities, including 100 m2 of common space on the ground floor, two shared laundry facilities, a large covered outdoor terrace, and an outdoor seating area with a firepit.
Fourteen additional parking stalls will be integrated into the site, which is lower than what would typically have been required for a development of this scope. As part of the zoning that was eventually adopted for the site, the RMOW allowed for the reduced parking on the condition that WB make a $1.08-million fee-in-lieu contribution to help cover the transit costs associated with the project. Glacier 8 will also include two universally accessible parking stalls in front of the building’s main entrance, as well as two electric-vehicle charging kiosks.
Representing about 240 new beds, Glacier 8 is the largest injection of employee beds Whistler has seen in years—although it still only represents a small fraction of WB’s 4,000-plus workforce. When the project was first announced five years ago, WB said it housed 31 per cent of its staff internally. With the addition of Glacier 8, the company will house more than a third of its workforce.
“This is an important piece of addressing our housing needs, as we all know—and the sooner the better,” said Mayor Jack Crompton at the Feb. 21 meeting. “I am enthusiastic about voting in favour of this.”
Among the conditions placed on the project that are yet to be fulfilled are: a landscaping security of $190,742; a restoration of vegetation disturbed by the project’s construction; and the protection of existing trees and forested areas on the site in accordance with the Tree Preservation Plan attached to the project.
A spokesperson for Vail Resorts said the company has no timeline at present for the project's completion, and its housing team "is actively seeking partners to include more Valley housing for next season to fill the gap until these new employee units come online."
*An earlier version of this story said the Glacier 8 apartment represented 200 beds, based on Vail Resort's estimates when the project was first announced. In an email after Pique's print deadline, a spokesperson said the building would house 240 beds.