Function landlords optimistic despite vacancies 

Judging by the signs hung in windows and perched along the road there...

Judging by the signs hung in windows and perched along the road there are a lot of vacancies in Function Junction these days, but according to landlords and real estate agents, there is also a lot of interest.

The vacancies started late last fall with the opening of the new warehouse and office complex at 1410 Alpha Lake Road, which offered lower square footage rates and commissary rates. Businesses left their existing Function spaces and opened shop in the new building. The new buildings on Lynham Road in the area two years before also had an affect.

Adding to the number of vacancies, almost two months ago the Muncipal Bylaw Department started to enforce the zoning and Whistler Fire Services started to enforce provincial fire codes in Function, which resulted in evictions at several illegal residences for safety reasons.

"The bottom line is that there’s more space in Function today that is empty than there has been in 10 years," said Drew Meredith from the Whistler Real Estate Company.

According to Don Wensely of Park Place Investments – the owner of the new building at 1410 Alpha Lake Road, a place on Lynham road and the Lordco building – there was 38,400 square feet of empty space in Function Junction at press time.

His new building has 43,000 square feet of space, all rented except for 1,200 square feet. Although he’s aware that he’s a big part of the reason for the vacancies in Function Junction he says the lower rates were necessary to compete with Pemberton and Squamish and bring new businesses to Whistler.

"There’s no question it took tenants out of other buildings," said Wensely of his building.

"The biggest problem here, in Function Junction, is that our success was killing us."

He said his lease rates are $14 to $15 per square foot, depending on the building, and commissary fees average $4.50 to $5.50 per square foot. That brings the total cost of renting a space to close to $20 a square foot, not including the cost of heat and light.

"There are landlords here who are charging $17 to $18.50 a square foot base rent. The businesses were wanting out of here. They were saying why settle in Whistler when I can go to Squamish or Pemberton for less than half the price," he said.

In addition to the existing tenants, Wensley says he personally knows of several major clients who are looking for space in Whistler but have been put off by the price. Even with rates as low as $13 a square foot, these businesses are still reluctant.

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