Phoenix II may rise 

Demand for the temporary housing project skyrockets to almost 500 beds

Two weeks after the Whistler Chamber of Commerce started taking registration from companies looking for employee accommodation in the Phoenix temporary housing project, businesses have signed up for 490 beds.

This oversubscription of the 210 beds currently planned for the converted shipping containers at the Holborn site highlights the fierce demand for employee housing in Whistler.

“The good news is that it really shows the demand, and it also shows the challenge that businesses are facing,” said president of the Chamber of Commerce Louise Lundy, who has helped spearhead the Phoenix project.

“Now the challenge will be to make sure they (the beds) get fairly distributed.”

According to acting mayor Gord McKeever, if another location for temporary housing is found, a second Phoenix project could very well become a reality.

“If we have another opportunity to create more temporary housing, there are many of us that have the will to see it proposed,” said McKeever, who has been working closely with the housing project.

“You virtually have 500 beds being requested, and that is just the early beds. That is just businesses who responded super quick… People who had to go and consult with a board of directors were not able to respond like that.

“The location we have at Holborn is going to be hard to match, with its close location to the village, its services and its zoning. I can’t imagine a better site in town… But if there is someone out there who has land, I would encourage them to propose it.”

Councillor Ralph Forsyth also alluded to the possibility of another Phoenix project during Tuesday’s council meeting, where first and second reading were given to a bylaw that would allow expansion to up to 294 beds on the Holborn site between Nov. 2008 and April 2010. If passed, the bylaw would extend the allowable gross floor area for employee housing on the site from 2,000 square metres to 3,500 square metres.

Forsyth said: “Based on the subscription of units available, I am glad we’ve done this once, because we are going to have to do it again.”

Lundy said Wednesday she was happy to hear council’s comments at the meeting.

“If other projects like this are going to be allowed to happen, that can only benefit the community,” she said.

“We could certainly use more employee housing.”

Phoenix project organizers met with businesses on Tuesday to discuss the details of the housing project and identify issues that have not yet been explored.

Contacted businesses are required to provide their deposit of $1,950 and hand in their signed leases by Friday, May 23. A running waitlist will be put together to fill in any spots that become available, said Lundy.

“It has been a great success story so far and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

The housing complex will consist of five or seven buildings, each three-storeys tall, made out of modified shipping containers. Each floor in the housing complex will have a kitchen and bathroom for groups of three- or four- bedrooms, as well as a common area and a balcony shared by all 14 rooms. There will also be a small locker for each occupant. Beds rent for $650 a month.

Another building, with laundry facilities, will also be built.

The 4500 Northlands Boulevard site were the housing will go is part of a five-hectare piece of property, home to a restaurant, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a pool and 30-stall parking area.

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