Downtown Revelstoke is on an upward trajectory and the 2016 summer looks like it will be a busy one with multiple developments downtown underway or in planning.
The city has grown in spits and spurts over the years after major plans for the Revelstoke Mountain Resort development were downsized due to bad economic times. But confidence seems to have returned with the City of Revelstoke recording more development activity this year.
“Activity in the development industry is higher this year than it was at the same time last year,” the city’s manager of development services Dean Strachan said. “We anticipate that will continue through this summer and make for a busy, busy year.”
Already there is a hive of activity in the downtown. The renovations in the old Nickelodeon Museum is the biggest news with a nine-room boutique hotel with attached restaurant expected to be finished in November.
The developers, who are from Seattle, also own the Revelstoke Roost Bed and Breakfast. When the Mountaineer contacted them, they were not ready to reveal any details, but realtors see their double interest in town as a strong investment sign.
“It’s such a dramatic change to the face of a storefront,” realtor Emily Beaumont from Royal LePage said. “It’s a completely different business type, from a museum, to something brand new.”
This latest hotel development also echoes the demand for a variety of accommodation options in town, with the proposed five-storey hotel on First Street West and Wright Street moving along, plus the 1,100-housing development on Nichol Road.
Realtors have also filled in the blanks with a number of business spaces being scooped up downtown. The building at 109/111 Second Street East, between Birch and Lace and the Craft Bierhaus, has been bought by Helios Rehabilitation & Performance’s Amy Guidinger and her partner Michael Stevenson.
They are the new landlords, under the business name Cressbrook, for a number of Revelstoke businesses on the second floor including Stoke FM.
“What has encouraged me is the development in the last few years, with the Bierhaus, Birch and Lace and Revelution,” Guidinger said. “It really has revived that section of the street.”
The couple are renovating the street level space and will move Helios there from its current location in the shopping strip at 1605 Victoria Road. They hope to open in June.
The downtown space had been on the market for a while, but having a business to add made Guidinger confident to purchase the space of about 2,000-plus square feet.
“A building with such a large vacant suite isn’t necessarily attractive to potential buyers but for us it made a lot of sense having our own business to occupy the downstairs suite,” Guidinger said.
Guidinger came to Revelstoke from Jasper in 2009 and started Helios in the midst of the recession, but she said it feels like Revelstoke survived.
“There’s sort of a continual new energy coming in with different businesses,” she said. “Even the ski hill, with their continuing evolution, such as with that rollercoaster. People are still moving forward, putting in new businesses and thriving still.”
A few metres down from Guidinger’s building, and in the empty space next to Royal LePage, a new business will open in June.
Sage & Brush Artisan Lounge is a unique concept dreamt up by entrepreneur Lisa Weber. Her business will be a mixed-use space of retail, restaurant and Weber’s dog training business K9 Synergy.
“I’m creating something that has a little bit of everything I love, and that connects the community,” Weber said.
Weber, who has been in Revelstoke for over 12 years, has run a restaurant in town and for nine years, a bed and breakfast. Previously, she lived in Banff but she is determined to carve out a sustainable lifestyle here.
“I’m trying to diversify a little bit because I’m trying to survive in this town,” she said. “Businesses do have a higher failure rate here especially if you’re small.”
Current Revelstoke business owners are now preparing for the upcoming peak tourism season.
Storefront renovations breathe new life into the downtown’s appeal and Conversations Coffee House owners Karen and Rick Powers recently closed their business for upgrades, planning to reopen in late April.
“Revelstoke is always busier in the summer than in the winter,” Karen said. “We’re getting busier in the winter, that’s the thing.”
After staying the same for 22 years, Conversations will benefit from a modern look, although staying true to its original rustic feel.
There will be funky coffee bar made from the building’s old heavy doors and the big round tables, that Conversations is known for, will stay.
Karen, who worked at Conversations before buying it five years ago, said Revelstoke is changing.
“I’ve been in Revelstoke all my life,” she said “I’ve seen it evolve and different things pop up.
“Revelstoke is finding it’s own, it’s still growing and it’s still in the early stages of development.”
Conversations isn’t the only restaurant undergoing big renovations. In the past year, the Main Street Cafe, The Taco Club and the Craft Bierhaus also underwent major interior renovations.
Revelstoke’s development department works to improve
The current city council was elected on a mandate of customer service and making Revelstoke open for business.
As development in the city increases, the city’s engineering and development department have also made an effort to become more efficient.
City of Revelstoke’s development manager Dean Strachan said the department’s new easy street access has helped the department be more accessible to customers. The department has also refined its goals in terms of the time it takes for a development permit to be issued.
“We’ve been working in all kinds of areas to deliver better customer service,” Strachan said. “Most of it is in efficiencies, not so much making the building permit easier, but moreso being clear with information, [and] responding in a timely manner.”
Local builder, Bill Black, interacts with the city somewhat regularly as part of his business Tobius Contracting. He’s noticed some progress in working with the city, amid its growing pains.
“The city has made some pretty big changes,” he said. “There’s been a lot of stuff the city has had to go through in the downturn, and now things are starting to turnaround.”
Black, who specializes in insulated concrete forms (concrete walls and flooring), said this year his workload is enough that he has had to turn down nine potential house builds. Last year he turned down six.
Black began in Revelstoke as a project manager for the ski hill and looked after the lift and run construction, before moving onto house construction in 2009. He built the 906 Farrell Road house and is currently working on the boutique hotel in the old Nickelodeon museum.
“There’s been quite a change in the city,” Black said. “The downturn impacted everyone, things are staring to come out now. It’s growing more here, the hype seems to be catching on.”
The exact numbers on construction and development activity in Revelstoke, for the start of the 2016, will be released in a quarterly report from the engineering and development department at the end of April.