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Whistler Chamber introduces Commercial Lease Report

Report provides 'snapshot' of current rates and operating costs



It's no secret Whistler can be a tough place to do business — and not just because of the obvious challenges like seasonality and dependence on the weather.

"For sure, dealing with the landlords was the biggest one," said McCoo's owner Kyle Hannay, who took over ownership of the long-time Whistler staple in 2013.

"Getting assignment of the leases, that was very difficult... you really have to be able to jump through a lot of hoops to get it done."

While Hannay and McCoo's have fared all right, if you decide to go into business in Whistler without knowing some of those hidden challenges, you could be in for a rude awakening.

To help ease some of the startup pains for new businesses, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce has produced a Commercial Lease Report that provides a snapshot of current rates and operating costs.

"When business is good, it's fantastic, but unfortunately there's a lot of factors," Hannay said.

"It's a tricky place, and I think the chamber, with this report, is really stepping up to help inform people to make good decisions moving forward, whether they're existing or whether they're entering."

Chamber CEO Val Litwin said the motivation behind the report is to help maintain a viable, business-friendly environment in Whistler.

"This report is really about creating more long-term win-wins between tenants and landlords," Litwin said.

The report is an "eyes wide open" tool for new businesses or businesses that are considering moving locations, Litwin said.

The intention of the document is to ensure potential business owners are aware of the high costs of leases, and to provide a platform to launch negotiations.

"I think people are quick to blame the market or the landlords, but it's a free market, right? So if there's demand out there, and there is, and there's limited supply, that pushes up those lease rates," Litwin said.

"What we're trying to do is create a space for dialogue between tenants and landlords."

The report outlines the price range of various retail locations throughout Whistler.

Space in Function Junction comes relatively cheap, at $15 to $17 per square foot, whereas prime real estate like that found in the Village Square nets between $95 and $125 per square foot.

The report also details different factors that determine lease rates for landlords and tenants.

The final negotiated rate could be impacted by the tenant's intended use, compatibility with other tenants, the size and layout of the space being negotiated, and of course, the location.

But it's imperative that prospective business owners do their homework, Litwin said.

"It's not uncommon for startup businesses to have a tremendous idea and a ton of enthusiasm, but not have done a lot of market research, not have built a deep business model, not have considered the marketing costs they would have to incur to make sure they create a strong footprint in the market in the first 12 months," Litwin said.

"What we're hoping this document will do is encourage people to cover off some of those essential best practices when you're launching a business so that they can come to the table and give greater confidence to the landlord, who then might be encouraged to create a more ideal environment for that business."

The chamber recruited the expertise of the Whistler Real Estate Company (WREC), to help draft the report.

WREC owner Pat Kelly stressed that there are a lot of moving pieces that come into play when negotiating lease rates, and that the report is intended only to be a snapshot of the current market.

"I think commercial real estate can be a bit mystifying for people, and that's because it's like the stock market to some extent," Kelly said.

"It is an investment, and it has to be approached like an investment. When you're investing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, it's something that you need to do your research, and do your diligence on, in advance.

"This document is a part of that information collecting process, and it's simply to help people get started."