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Commercial lease rates stay steady, says report

2019 Whistler Chamber Lease Report released
RENTAL RATES Despite some steep startup costs and high rents in Whistler Village, Jeremy "Stinky" Peterson says he wouldn't have wanted to open his new venture, Stinky's on the Stroll, anywhere else. Photo by Braden Dupuis

Despite the expense, some business owners are still venturing to make a go of it in the village.

Longtime local Jeremy Peterson said he recently paid $40,000 to purchase the remainder of a lease from yogurt shop Menchie's.

On top of that, Peterson had to put up a damage deposit of $41,000 and is now paying about $10,000 a month in rent for his space.

But Peterson said that in the end it's worth it: He wouldn't have wanted to open his bar, Stinky's on the Stroll, anywhere else.

"My heart was set on the village," said Peterson. "For me, to have a chance to open up my own place, on the stroll—man, it's amazing! I pinch myself."

Peterson's rent—$80 per square foot, with $27 per square foot in triple net fees (fees that cover taxes, insurance and maintenance)—is slightly below figures for the area laid out in the recently released 2019 Whistler Chamber Lease Report.

The report pegs the Town Plaza area of the village as costing $85 to $95 per square foot ($25 to $30 triple net).

That compares to $70 to $85 ($21 to $25 triple net) for Olympic Plaza; $95 to $125 (all included) for Village Square; and $110 to $150 (all included) for Mountain Square.

Outside of the village, there are still some (relatively) cheaper deals to be found.

The report stated that commercial real estate in Function Junction costs $18 to $25 ($7 to $9 triple net), while space in Creekside is $35 to $55 ($20 to $25 triple net).

Nesters is priced at $45 to $55 ($35 to $55 triple net).

The figures in the report are largely the same as last year, and according to Whistler Chamber CEO Melissa Pace, that's a positive thing.

"[Business owners] are seeing enough [cost] increases in other ways," she said, noting labour challenges.

Despite some empty store areas located underneath Earls, Pace said there is little vacant space in the village and demand for it remains strong.

"There isn't a significant amount of availability in our community right now, which is good news," said Pace. "Businesses are thriving and stores are filled. Occupancy is high."

Given the high price of commercial rent, can small business still make a go of it?

"It's never going to be an easy task, but certainly it's possible for them to come into the community and build a business," said Pace.

"As long as they take into account labour and housing, and all the other expenses that go along with it, then of course they have a chance of being quite successful.

"It's businesses that come in and don't understand necessarily how impactful housing might be on ensuring the longevity of their businesses ... [that] may falter."

Whistler Real Estate Company owner Pat Kelly, who helped draft the report, said demand for space remains strong.

"It's more of the same as we've been experiencing in recent years," said Kelly.

"There's lots of interest in commercial space here, but there really are limited opportunities."

Kelly said that there has been some slight price increases at the "bottom end" of the market.

"There is no empty ground-floor space in Function, for example," he said. "So we are finding the new leases that are being found there are closer to $20 than to $18 (per square foot), so that moved up [from 2018]," said Kelly, adding that the price of commercial space for restaurants has increased dramatically over the years.

"You're not going to find a spot for a restaurant for anything less than $45 or $40 (per square foot), and it used to be around $35," he said.

"I would describe our situation now as very low vacancy."

Back at Stinky's, Peterson said he has to credit all the friends he has made over the years with helping him get his business off the ground.

"The trade guys gave me great deals, and friends have come and given me their spare time to rip down a wall or whatever," said Peterson.

"I couldn't have done this without the support of Whistler."

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