The District of Sicamous is stepping up its efforts to foster new commercial/residential development downtown.
District staff have drafted a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the redevelopment of Main Street, seeking “detailed applications from interested parties to design, develop, own, operate and finance a mixed residential and commercial development or developments on certain strategically located private lands on Main Street….”
District town manager Evan Parliament explains the RFEI primarily applies to available properties on the south side of Main Street, from the former Secret Garden to the channel, but would extend to Finlayson Street and elsewhere in the downtown core. He explained the district isn’t looking to purchase properties, but to act as a broker between property owners and developers, builders and whoever else might express an interest in investing in Sicamous.
“We are simply saying, ‘hey, investment community, are you interested in redeveloping the downtown area and, if you are, this is what we’re looking for,’” said Parliament. “We’re looking for medical services, we’re looking for seniors housing, we’re looking at ancillary-type health-care services, etc. We’re looking at community space. Tell us who you are, tell us what kind of experience you have, and we’ll sit down and talk to you when we go to the next phase.”
A key focus of the RFEI are commercial/residential facilities that would help to populate the downtown.
“So we’re looking at any development that will be main floor commercial, second/third floor residential,” said Parliament. “What’s driving Sicamous ideally is seniors housing. There would be seasonal housing. But any type of residential is always good for commerce. You know, density. You want to bring more density to your downtown. You can’t just have a whole bunch of businesses and no residential.”
Parliament said the RFEI is a way for the district to be proactive, instead of sitting on the sidelines, waiting for development to occur on its own. And, with the RFEI, the district can sell the advantages of investing and building in the community.
“For example, we have a revitalization tax exemption bylaw,” said Parliament. “With this RFEI, we’ll be able to sell that. But without that, our bylaw just sort of sits there and we’re hoping they notice it. Where this proactive way is saying, ‘hey, did you know, if you invest in the downtown we can exempt your municipal taxes for up to 10 years?’”
Parliament said the whole point of the RFEI is to cast a wide net and, if anything comes in, to have a look at it.
“That’s the beauty of looking at all of these different proposals is we can weigh the pros and cons of each,” said Parliament. “Ideally, we want something to be on Main Street because that’s where the commerce is, that’s where people come in. But if it’s on the periphery, we’ll look at that also.”