Many village businesses wary as Olympics draw nearer 

Landlords, tenants disagree on stability of commercial lease market

Local businessman Stephen Henderson said he was very encouraged by a recent forum bringing together commercial landlords and tenants to talk about the future.

"It’s put my fears at ease," said Henderson who owns Great Games & Toys in Whistler’s MarketPlace.

Tuesday’s forum, organized by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, featured nine panel speakers who talked about the landlord/tenant relationship. From the two-hour frank discussion Henderson said he thinks people understand that short-term gain is just going to hurt the resort in the long run.

"What’s very important is our long-term image... that people have a good experience here," he said.

The nine panelists ranged from a few local landlords, a tenant, a commercial real estate agent, property assessors and lawyers.

They met to kick start discussions between commercial landlords and tenants, dispel some of the myths and see where that relationship may be heading in the future, especially in light of the Olympic Games coming to town in 2010.

Though most agreed improving communication was key to the landlord/tenant relationship, the sides disagreed about the stability of the commercial lease market at the moment.

Jonathan Lazar, representing Larco Investments Ltd., a Vancouver-based company that owns Whistler Village Centre, which includes retailers from Cows to Surefoot, said that market is stable.

There isn’t a large turnover of tenants at the Whistler Village Centre and 60 per cent of the current tenants are the same tenants that were in the building when it first opened in 1995.

On the flip side, from a tenant’s point of view, local business owner Dave Davenport doesn’t see a stable lease market in Whistler at all.

A perfect example of the instability is the fact that there’s "key money" in the marketplace right now he said. "Key money" is a payment to a landlord from a tenant or a prospective tenant in return for the chance to rent a building.

Davenport owns two businesses in Whistler, Mountain Crests and Skitch, and he deals with two landlords.

"There are people prepared to pay higher rents than I am," he said.

As such Davenport is feeling the pressure for rents to go up as well as the pressure to make more money in the marketplace.

That pressure in the marketplace is evident from landlord Don Wensley’s recent experiences. He personally knows 14 businesses that went under in the last five months in Whistler. Some just couldn’t make ends meet while others were sick and tired of working hard for very little return. The result of these unsuccessful businesses packing up and moving out is that other tenants simply move into their place and set up shop.

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