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'Pod-style' accommodation to bring new product to village

Council clears way with covenant modification on traditional timeshare units
FLY SOlo This old timeshare in Whistler Village is being converted into affordable accommodations for solo tourists. Photo by Alison Taylor

Plans are in the works to redevelop an old village timeshare property with a new twist.

It will be designed to draw in solo tourists looking for a clean place to rest their heads for the night, but spend less than $100 for a place to stay in the heart of the village.

"We intend to cater to this extensive category of tourists by completely rejuvenating, retrofitting and enhancing an existing 'tired' village property and offering high-end shared accommodation at approximately a third of the cost of the current, over-supplied, village hotel rooms," wrote Russell and Jelena Kling, who moved to B.C. last year after travelling around the world for three years.

This is how they intend to do that.

The property at 4325 Sunrise Alley, above Carlbergs Gift Shop, has nine timeshare units of varying size (from 390 square feet to 925 square feet). Each has private living quarters with kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms.

The plan is to convert the units into 13 smaller shared units — "pod-style" units, each with more than one single bed.

They will be bathrooms and shower facilities in each unit, ski and bike storage for each unit, a common laundry facility, a café and support space for office, janitorial and storage.

"We do not believe our plan should be viewed as an increase in village beds," wrote the Klings. "We firmly believe it should be viewed as a decrease in effective supply. We will be removing beds from a product category in which there is a current, substantial, over-supply, and replacing them with a different product, a different category of beds, from which there is currently zero supply. If anything, by removing unwanted supply, and by concurrently created new demand, we should positively impact and help tighten both sides of the village's supply-demand dynamics."

On Tuesday council approved the proposed redevelopment of the units by executing covenant modification documents — the existing covenant restricts the use and development of the property. The redevelopment is permitted under the zoning, the use is deemed tourist accommodation, which is a permitted use, and there is no proposed increase in the gross floor area.

In the staff report, Mike Kirkegaard, municipal director of planning, wrote: "Currently the nine existing units are operated as a timeshare with 450 owners who are seeking to sell their interests and the property."

This move to consolidate under one owner is seen by the municipality as a good move as it "will facilitate in the reinvestment and improvements to this aging property."

Kirkegaard told council that Tourism Whistler statistics support the concept — 11 per cent of winter visitors are single travellers, seven per cent of summer guests are single travellers.

"That's the exact market that this accommodation is looking to provide for," said Kirkegaard.

Council, however, expressed some reservations regarding the number of beds being added (which is roughly equal to the current bed units on the property), the potential for the café to morph into something different, and perhaps a missed opportunity to encourage redevelopment of the exterior of the building.

Municipal chief administrative officer Mike Furey said it's not every day that 450 timeshare owners can find consensus. This consensus provides an opportunity.

"Our recommendation is to try and seize that opportunity," said Furey.

Councillor Jack Crompton liked the concept.

"I like it and it's definitely out of the box and they're definitely very small boxes too," he joked, referring to the pod-style beds.

"I think that this is something we could really use."

He would like to see the municipality encourage the perspective owners to look at the tools for redevelopment of the exterior too.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden agreed.

"To keep the 40-year old siding on the outside just makes no sense," she said, referring to the new owner buying out the timeshares and investing in the redevelopment.