North Kamloops redevelopment reaching a 'tipping point'
A Kamloops neighbourhood new residents were once warned to steer clear of due to crime in the area is about to change, and developers aren't waiting on the City to make a plan.
The North Shore is "a few years" from an influx of developers and it took a handful of people with deep pockets to dive in first, business association president Jeremy Heighton said. As more medium and high-density buildings start popping up along the Tranquille corridor, he expects a domino effect to bring an influx of new builds within the next few years.
"The last four years we've been talking about revitalization," Heighton said. "We're now about to see the tipping point starting to occur."
Even the City itself has taken an interest in building out the area by purchasing the Northbridge Hotel with the intention of selling it to a developer for future market housing.
Private developers are well on their way to changing the neighbourhood. ARPA Investments sprung new medium-density housing along the corridor like Colours and The Station, which are currently mixed with a range of one and two-storey retail shops and office buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. Many are currently in use, but there are several closed shops and empty lots in the area, which Heighton believes are sure to start attracting out-of-town investment.
ARPA has built roughly $30 million in new projects on the North Shore in the last few years, with another $50 million in new investments on the way. While it isn't the only group investing in revitalizing the Shore, it is a major player.
"I think we've gotten to a point where local developers are tapped out," Heighton said. "I've met with Vancouver and Kelowna developers in last few months to line them up with landowners and money people."
It's a slow change from past investment from local developers traditionally seen through new builds in Kamloops.
The City's upcoming North Shore Plan has been four years in the making. It was anticipated to be finalized and get ratification from council by last spring, but it's fallen behind schedule and there's been no update to expect a final draft to come to council.
Despite that, councillor Mike O'Reilly says the new builds in North Kamloops, particularly those along the Tranquille Corridor, fall directly in line with the vision he expects council will agree to. He added that regardless of any plan the City draws up, it depends on private investment and developers to see those plans through. The City can simply help set the table.
"(Redevelopment) has been talked about for 20 years or more," he said of the North Shore. "The new developments have to come from developers taking a risk. ARPA and some other players took a risk."
The drafted North Shore Plan is a comprehensive restructuring of not only the Tranquille Corridor, but it also extends to Brocklehurst and airport lands further west. Along the corridor, however, the current draft aims to encourage medium and high-density housing, along with several commercial areas, in an area that's by and large accessible and walkable.
Joshua Knaak of ARPA Investments envisions a "European model" with small storefronts within walking distance, rather than other single-family and driver-focused suburbs Kamloops is accustomed to.
While Knaak and ARPA Investments appear to have no patience for a guiding North Shore Plan, he said much of the developments they've either completed or are in the process of building align with what the City is aiming for.
ARPA is set to build a new 64-unit condo building on Royal Avenue and two multi-family buildings on Elm Street. It also has future plans for two developments on 320 and 156 Tranquille Road, which haven't yet made their way to the City for approval.
Knaak said the 156 Tranquille Road property, which was once a used car dealership, could be sold to another developer. Because of all the projects ARPA already has in process, it will be a "few years" before they get close to having shovels in the ground, but there's "considerable interest" from other developers.
"It's more than just investment. The three partners in ARPA, we live three blocks from nearly everything we're doing. You get attached to a neighbourhood," he said. "The North Shore has opportunity to be a unique place where development is interspersed with older buildings with character. I wouldn't want to see new tower after new tower."
The next decade for the North Shore wouldn't be expected to look like the possible over-build on the way for downtown Kelowna, but it would be a drastic change from the single-family home neighbourhoods that currently dominate the area.
While downtown Kamloops is building up with properties like Kelson Group's City Gardens featuring 24- and 20-storey towers, Heighton expects the tallest buildings would stand around 10 storeys and mix with other smaller buildings.
Even the City of Kamloops is speculating on North Shore real estate, with its $7 million purchase. The City plans to sell the property to a private developer.
"We're not really into this to operate this facility, we're into this to acquire the asset," Mayor Ken Christian said in October following the purchase. "You have to jump on those opportunities when they come."
While he stated no timeline on the property publicly at the time, the City has been making changes at the property. Some of the residents are preparing for eviction or have moved to other properties already, while the City struck a deal with B.C. Housing to build a housing facility on the back lot, 346 Campbell Avenue.
Besides ARPA and the City, other projects on the go include an apartment complex by Orak Enterprises at 501 Tranquille Road, along with some headed by non-profits like Interior Community Services and A Way Home Kamloops. ASK Wellness already hosts dozens of housing units along Tranquille too, with its Spero House building and units within ARPA's Colours building.
From outside Kamloops, developers are slowly starting to take interest in the city and North Kamloops, specifically. North Kamloops was even named one of the top 100 places to invest in 2019, before the pandemic hit.
Local realtor Brendan Shaw said, compared to Kelowna, Kamloops is "still a hidden gem" for real estate investment.
"We're not seeing that same level of commitment, with some jumping over Kamloops to places like Kelowna and Penticton," he said. "We're getting some but a lot is just interest, not putting pen to paper."
With some properties being held by owners, seemingly not wanting to make changes yet, Heighton suspects that will change in just a couple years. There are Tranquille Road properties like McCleaners at 301 Tranquille Road, the closed Eps Pool Mart at 268 and the closed Tim Hortons at 481 that Heighton suspects will be redeveloped in the coming years, bringing big changes to the area.
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