(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Historic BC Tree Fruits head office in Okanagan for sale

The company’s CEO said the decision was necessary due to a fickle fruit market

An iconic historic building in downtown Kelowna is soon to be listed for sale.

The BC Tree Fruits Cooperative, based at 1473 Water Street, today (Sept. 24) confirmed their building will be sold. The building currently serves as the cooperative’s head office.

A recent strategic review of assets by the cooperative determined the sale of the Water Street property was in their best interest.

The company’s top brass admitted it was not an easy decision to make.

“It was a very difficult decision… it is an iconic building,” said Warren Sarafinchan, Chief Executive Officer of the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative. “The cooperative is in the process of transforming our business, and it was a decision that was necessary.”

Since 1936, BC Tree Fruits Cooperative has been packing, marketing and selling fruit in Canada, in the U.S., and some international export markets. The company’s packing house has been in the Okanagan valley for decades. Their Water Street building was built in 1946 as the new premises for B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd., which had outgrown its space in the Mill Avenue Building across the street at 1470 Water Street.

According to the City of Kelowna’s heritage registry website, this building was erected “reflecting the prosperity of the industry” during what is considered the ‘Golden Age’ of the Okanagan fruit industry.

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(Google Maps image)

The group intends to list the property on the market imminently, but as of Thursday couldn’t confirm the future listing price. Sarafinchan admitted he has been ‘shocked and overwhelmed’ at the interest they have seen so far.

He pointed to a fickle fruit market which has spurred the need for decisive decision making.

“It comes as no secret the returns that our growers have seen in recent years are in some cases below cost of production. We need to find solutions to that. There are decisions that are necessary, and we’re making those.”

Sarafinchan said they have been looking at revenue, costs, which facilities they need, and those that they don’t, in order to, “make sure there is a future for the cooperative and the growers that we support.”

READ MORE: Smoky conditions, worker shortage threaten Okanagan apple harvest

Fruit growing, he said, is an important part of the Okanagan community, and while they do need to change and transform, they, “certainly intend to continue to be a part of the community, and we’re working very hard with our growers and other industry stakeholders to ensure we get to that new destination.”

As a result of the imminent sale, part of the cooperative’s staff have been moved to their packing house in Winfield. Others have been moved to an office on Sexsmith Rd. This move is set to be completed this week.

The City of Kelowna confirmed the Water Street building is registered for mixed-use, which could accommodate commercial and residential development. However, it is listed on the city’s heritage registry, which could potentially limit its development.

Those looking to develop it may need to apply at a municipal level to remove the building from the registry. That being said, the city explained that a building listed on the heritage registry is not as well-protected as one with a heritage designation bylaw, which the property does not possess. Although circumstances vary, these kinds of provincial bylaws can more strictly limit the types of alterations to a property.

As of July 1, 2019, the property is assessed at a value of $2,727,000 by BC Assessment.

READ MORE: Shuswap man ‘started to lose it’ after learning of lottery win

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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