Looking forward to the new Creekside 

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS
  • File photo by Braden Dupuis

Creekside, it appears, is continuing its slow path to rejuvenation.

Another open house was held this week to discuss the rezoning of the Creekside Plaza, as its developers move toward their new vision for the area.

Earlier this month, Whistler Council supported an amendment that would prohibit the liquor store from moving to the Creekside Plaza from its current home on Franz's Trail.

The concern being that it would simply mean shoppers would drive and park to get groceries, or shopping from the Franz's area, and then get back in their cars to pick up their libations across the street at Creekside Plaza.

The new Creekside development will offer a welcome sight as visitors arrive in Whistler and there is little doubt that the amenities it will offer, including some staff housing, will be appreciated by local residents as well.

The Creekside Plaza Ltd. proponents—the company is owned by Dan Jekubik and his brothers—have invested $1.3 million in improvements to the property since buying it in 2010, including a new roof for the building at 2011, landscaping, roadwork and more.

"I really want to build something nice and something that I can be proud of that helps the community..." Jekubik told Pique earlier.

This is a development that is widely celebrated and it's a relief that the proponents will continue even without the liquor store.

Franz's Trail, meanwhile, was purchased in November by Kaori and Ray Zage under their company BTC Ltd.

The Zages have owned a home in Creekside since 2008, and bought Franz's Trail from Imperium Blue, which purchased the real estate from Florida-based CNL Lifestyle Properties last year. CNL purchased an 80-per-cent stake in Creekside in 2004 from Intrawest.

The Zages have suggested that they want to help make the Creekside area livelier and reinvigorate it—a long-time hope of most people.

It's decades since the first visitor took the Creekside Gondola up Whistler Mountain (renamed from London Mountain in 1965) and yet we are still trying to find out where this unique area fits into Whistler's great plan.

CNL was focused on finding tenants that were unique and/or offered something quintessentially Canadian. Its hope was to make Creekside Village a "must-visit" location. That clearly hasn't happened.

In the spring of 2016, there was a bit of a buzz when it was announced that the Gateway building, which has been vacant for years, was to open as a fitness gym in the fall. Here we are two years later and it still seems to be under renovation in its interior with no opening date set (messages to the owner were not returned by print deadline).

Originally developed to bring skiing to Whistler, and to push for Olympic bids in the '60s and '70s, real estate development at Creekside took place under Intrawest's watch. It was envisioned as a place where Whistler's heritage would be celebrated. Intrawest wanted to "preserve and enhance the random charm of Whistler's first neighbourhood."

Planner Eldon Beck and architect Ray Letkeman created the idea of Franz's Trail, which was to include funky eateries and unusual shops with the signage all in the rustic hand carved or painted style of the 1960s. It was to reflect the free and easy nature of Whistler "back in the day." Cars were to be kept out of sight in underground parking.

The overarching idea was to create a place for locals to do business, work and hang out.

Tied in with the development of Creekside was the development of the Spring Creek neighbourhood, and also what is now the Nita Lake Lodge and train station area.

The late '90s saw packed community meetings as the master plan for Whistler South was discussed and debated.

What was always understood though was that the village, not Creekside or anywhere else, was to be the focal point of the resort—the place where locals and visitors would mingle. No one wanted a resort village that was just for tourists, as it would lack vibe and businesses would never survive long term.

This understanding reaches all the way back to planning in the early '70s and indeed a study by James Gilmour of the province's Municipal Affairs' planning services department addressed this exact issue.

"This plan strongly recommends the 'single-centred' concept over the 'multi-centred' one for a variety of reasons," wrote Gilmour.

For the most part, this belief has remained intact—perhaps the inability of Creekside to thrive should be laid at the feet of this historical belief?

But this idea is one that time needs to leave behind. We have seen Function Junction morph into a funky little neighbourhood of its own with a grocery store, eateries and successful breweries, as well as many other stores and businesses, industrial and otherwise.

Cheakamus is a thriving neighbourhood as well. Rainbow's modest shopping plaza appears to be doing well at the north end of town as well.

Have we reached critical mass for satellite shopping?

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