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WDC looking for right fit for commercial space

Interest high in Cheakamus Crossing restaurant/pub area



With homeowners moving in to Cheakamus Crossing in less than a month, no leases have been signed for commercial space in the area.

Joe Redmond, president of Whistler 2020 Development Corp. said they are taking their time to find the right fit for the new community but they hope to have at least a new restaurant operating by the fall.

"We want to make sure we get the right person," Redmond said. "We believe it's going to take a while before we have a venture that is profitable."

The WDC, which is handling inquiries and negations for lease contracts, acquired access to the spaces in May. They have spent June and July talking with prospective business operators.

"We don't want to rush into it," Redmond said.

The area has space for a 2,500 to 3,000 sq. foot restaurant/pub. There is another 1,000 sq. ft. to 1,500 sq. ft. of space available for a convenience store or for some other use.

Redmond said there has been "quite a bit" of interest from people in the food and beverage sector. There have also been inquiries to open a barbershop and a physiotherapy practice. All the spaces can be separated into several units, if necessary, for whatever will suit the needs of the community.

But he said the "most important thing" for Cheakamus Crossing is the restaurant.

Redmond said that the rent is open for negotiation and will go for prices similar to those at Function Junction. He said that will run between $12 and $25 per square foot.

"But that's on the high end," he said.

The community will house about 700 people, many of them with children, so Redmond said they're looking for businesses that will suit the needs of these families.

"We want something that will serve the community here. It's not going to be a T-shirt store," he said. Nor is it likely that a bike or ski shop will be opening in the area. With the limited available space in Cheakamus Crossing, Redmond said the WDC will sign leases with businesses that make sense to the area.

With numerous vacancies in Function and the more-expensive village, there is some concern about the viability of a business in Cheakamus Crossing.

"That's probably the thing that prospective tenants are wrestling with is the economy," he said, noting that business owners will want to make sure of their venture in a difficult economy.

"It really depends on getting the right person who's in a position and feels comfortable with the economy."

He also said that it takes time for businesses, restaurants in particular, to gain a reputation and a customer base.

The only business currently operating is the youth hostel, which opened July 1, and Cheaky's Café, located in the same building. Redmond said that once families have moved into Cheakamus Crossing there's going to be a demand for the restaurant to be open.

"It's a tremendous patio to have a beer on," he said.

Chelsea Turnbull, general manager of the Whistler Hostel, said she doesn't care what businesses open in the area, so long as they serve the community appropriately. As a soon-to-be resident of Cheakamus Crossing herself, she said that whatever moves in to those commercial spaces - especially in the restaurant space - is bound to succeed.

"As long it is a well-researched, well-thought out enterprise, it will work really well," she said.

She added that the hostel is currently running between 30 and 40 per cent occupancy and is receiving "outstanding" feedback from guests, despite there being little to do in the immediate area at the moment. She said that most visitors have taken advantage of the mountain biking and hiking opportunities in the area. There is also frequent bus service to the village, so Turnbull hasn't heard too many complaints.

The café mainly serves a contractor who is putting the finishing touches on new homes and the odd cyclist who is curious about the area. She said business is likely to pick up once the houses are occupied. The café is not currently licensed, though she said the hostel is looking into it.

There is also space for what could be a convenience store, but so far the hostel is using it for storage until they can decide what to use it for.



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