After delays in construction, Townsite investor Steve Brooks is putting to rest some of the rumours surrounding his mall property on the corner of Ash Street and Marine Avenue, to be called the Warehouse.
“I’m going for a balance of entertainment and artisan businesses in the space,” said Brooks.
The building was first unveiled as Powell River Stores in November 1941. Brooks’ project would be in keeping with the tradition of its original purpose, as a focal point for Townsite residents to shop and socialize. The building has a long history with the boom and bust years of the old mill town.
“I’m trying to make it a really unique and interesting building, and leverage all the history,” said Brooks.
According to Ann Nelson, longtime Townsite resident and editor of Karen Southern’s second volume in Townsite Heritage Society’s House Histories and Heritage three-part series, the building has had several past owners.
“Each of them have had grandiose ideas about what they wanted to do and have not been able to follow through,” said Nelson.
Brooks believes his approach to the site will be successful because he has not rushed to completion. The enormity of the project was unexpected, he said.
Brooks purchased the property and the 40,000 square-foot building in 2011. He will not reveal how much he spent buying it, or the cost of engineering and construction necessary to get it to a point where he can start talking publicly and in more detail about his plans.
“I’m not a developer, I’m only one person,” said Brooks. “I have a consulting company. I can’t channel a lot of my consulting income into these projects. All of the buildings I own, the old Bank of Montreal, the federal building [occupied by Townsite Brewing] and the Warehouse, it’s just me. It’s my pet project because I love Townsite.”
Most of the work on the Warehouse last year was on seismic upgrades and rebuilding walls, he said.
The Warehouse has a lot hanging on a proposed climbing wall in Powell River. On March 14, the group behind the indoor wall officially became Powell River Climbing Co-operative (PRCC). The co-op has applied for a grant of nearly $170,000 from Powell River Community Reserve Fund (PRCRF) and an answer is expected within days. If the grant is approved, construction of the wall can begin at the Warehouse.
“If we get the grant, we will move ahead as fast as we are able,” said PRCC founding member Tracy Raftl.
Brooks said he has been waiting to hear if the climbing co-op receives financing. The group hopes to open in the summer, which would be ahead of Brooks’ timeline.
“It’s an important tenant, just from a balance of entertainment and artisan I want in the building,” said Brooks. “Our design of the whole west wall is actually dependent on the climbing wall. It’s crucial.”
Other planned tenants include 32 Lakes Coffee, Raincoast Kombucha, a tap house-style restaurant, entertainment venue/nightclub and local food market.
Smaller, local artisans Brooks would like to see open and fill the Warehouse are a cheesemaker, pizzeria and ice-cream stand.
A maker-space, which has grown from the do-it-yourself culture, is also envisioned, he said. Tools and equipment would be made available to people wanting to make their
own arts and crafts.
“It’s going to create a nice community space,” said Nathan Jantz who, along with his wife Margo, owns 32 Lakes. “It’s going to be a showcase of a lot of the different small companies that are transitioning the Townsite area.”
Brooks knows Powell River residents, particularly those of Townsite, want to know when the Warehouse will open, but even if the PRCC gets its funding and becomes an anchor tenant, he isn’t in a hurry.
“I don’t want to open until I’ve got a critical mass of businesses in the building and I don’t want them to fail,” he said. “I don’t want 32 Lakes to staff a front counter, to only have a few businesses in the Warehouse and, as a result, not have the walk-in traffic and to ultimately fail.”
The PRCRF grant to the climbing co-operative is the key to the Warehouse opening date, said Brooks. If the PRCRF grant falls into place, opening day would either be at the end of this year or early next year.