NORTH SHORE’S NEW AGE: A View to a Thrilling Comeback, Kamloops This Week

This feature article appeared in the Kamloops this Week on February 9th, 2012 and was written by Jeremy Deutsch.

McArthur Island Park Kamloops Aerial ViewIf you take a drive around the North Shore, it’s not hard to see — there is plenty of construction and new development.

In recent years, the cityscape of the community has started to transform.

The list of new developments and projects is as long as a drive-thru lineup during a lunch rush at the new Brocklehurst Tim Hortons outlet.

There is the new Holiday Inn and the Golden Vista Suites on Cherry Avenue.

Construction is underway on a pharmacy/residential building along Tranquille Road, while plans continue to roll along for a four-tower, 410-unit development on Cottonwood Avenue.

In Brocklehurst, there is the RiverBend seniors complex and the new Tim Hortons, while the airport got a $25-million makeover.

But, when the topic of the resurgence of the North Shore is discussed, it seems to land back at Library Square.

Standing on his sixth-floor balcony, Bill Anhorn can literally see for miles.

From his Library Square apartment, he has a view of Eighth Street heading north to Batchelor Heights, west toward the airport and east right over Northills Mall.

As the first manager of the North Shore Business Improvement Association (NSBIA) more than 20 years ago, Anhorn likes what he sees from his balcony.

“This is central to everything,” he told KTW.

For the spry senior, Library Square is within walking distance of everything he needs — the ANAVETS 290 building, the White Spot Restaurant and the mall.

After his wife passed away from cancer three years ago, Anhorn, who was living in Cottonwood Manor at the time, but then moved to the Hamlets in Westsyde, said he wasn’t quite ready to stay at a seniors’ home, so he looked at Library Square.

In 2011, he decided to make the move and, as he puts it, “come back home.”

Library Square is a unique development consisting of 151 residential units mixed with two commercial areas and the North Kamloops public library.

It was one of the first P3s in Kamloops, a public-private partnership, and has been credited with anchoring the resurgence of the neighbourhood.

“This is really going to be the centre of development,” said Anhorn, who has championed the North Shore since he moved to the city in 1968.

He said when the North Shore as a business area was first conceived, the common complaint was there was not enough traffic.

Now, he jokes, people complain there is too much.

Originally, developer Casey VanDongen was looking at building something downtown but, with the city and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District working on development incentives and the new Holiday Inn being built, the president of Tri-City Contracting opted for the North Shore and Tranquille Road.

“We thought this might come around to something, and it did,” he said.

VanDongen admits he took a risk when he decided to take his development to the North Shore and break ground on the project in 2008.

But, four years later, he wouldn’t change a thing.

He said the city has been a good partner along the way, adding the neighbourhood needed a development like Library Square to kick-start its resurgence.

Construction on the third and final phase of the development will begin later this year and, though VanDongen admits the market isn’t exactly hot, units are selling.

NSBIA manager Peter Mutrie has always been the North Shore’s most-vocal cheerleader.

He also sees Library Square as an anchor piece for the neighbourhood, but suggested its success is just part of the transformation in the area.

Mutrie believes there is an attitude change in North Kamloops, where people are happy to do business in the community and young families are taking an interest in becoming residents.

“I’m hearing, ‘Boy, the North Shore sure has changed in the last few years’,” Mutrie said.

As more people in the community own their own homes, Mutrie said ownership comes with a greater interest in taking care of the area.

“It gets to be attractive and other people want to be a part of it and be here,” he said.

The days when realtors would steer clients away from the North Shore appear long gone.

Kirsten Mason has been a real estate agent in Kamloops for four years.

She said people are taking a closer look at all areas of North Kamloops because homes are cheaper than south across the river.

The average assessed value of a home on the North Shore, including North Kamloops and Brocklehurst, in 2012 is $303,000, compared to $404,000 in Sahali and Aberdeen.

Mason noted it is a mix of buyers, from young families to seniors and investors, who see a future in the community.

In a tough real-estate market still affected by the fallout from the 2008 economic meltdown and subsequent recession, real-estate sales in some neighbourhoods on the north side of the Thompson River have remained steady over the last three years.

According to the Kamloops District Real Estate Association, home sales in Brocklehurst have essentially remained even from 2009 to 2011, making up 13 per cent of all the sales in the district.

However, North Kamloops hasn’t been as fortunate.

The neighbourhood saw its share of sales in Kamloops drop to 6.4 per cent in 2011 from 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 7.8 per cent in 2009.

Though Mason, who lives in Brocklehurst, noted there remains a negative stigma attached to living in North Kamloops, she always encourages her clients to take a good look at the area.

“There’s some really nice neighbourhoods for kids to grow up in,” she said.

NORTH SHORE’S NEW AGE: North Shore Plan Paved the Way for New Development, Kamloops This Week

This feature article appeared in the Kamloops this Week on February 9th, 2012 and was written by Jeremy Deutsch.

North Kamloops BC Park Real EstatePart of what has attracted so many new developments to North Kamloops can be found in the North Shore Neighbourhood Plan.

The 176-page document is a comprehensive land-use blueprint intended to guide the growth of the North Shore for the next 20 years.

It is full of initiatives, from green building-tax incentives to the design of green streets, all while encouraging density and infill development.

It took three years to complete before finally being approved in 2008.

Since its inception, the city has tackled or completed one-third of the medium or high priorities on the plan’s policy and capital-projects checklist.

Some of the larger projects include the completion of the North Shore Spirit Square at Yew Street and MacKenzie Avenue, a green-street pilot project on Fleetwood Avenue and the North Shore Transit Exchange.

They are projects worth millions of dollars.

“We’ve made huge progress on it [the neighbourhood plan],” said David Trawin, the city’s director of development and engineering services.

In the last four or five years, he noted, interest in development in North Kamloops has outpaced that seen in the downtown core, in part because there is more vacant land.

“It’s [the North Shore] kind of rediscovered itself in another way and now we’re actually seeing some development and interest by a lot of groups,” Trawin said.

Kamloops Meets City’s Growth Expectations in 2011 Census, Kamloops Daily News

This article appeared in the Kamloops Daily News on February 8th, 2012 and was written by Michelle Young.

Kamloops beat the national average in terms of population growth between 2006 and 2011, but it lagged slightly behind B.C.’s average.

Statistics Canada released initial figures from its 2011 census Wednesday that showed Kamloops has 85,678 residents. That’s up 6.6 per cent from 2006. B.C. as a whole saw its numbers rise seven per cent between 2006 and 2011.

Venture Kamloops executive director Dan Sulz said the city’s growth during tough economic times bodes well. “To me, that’s good news as opposed to what you hear in the world economy with people shutting down business and moving out of town,” he said. “We’ve not only sustained, but we’ve grown over that period.”

That’s attractive to business owners looking for places to set up or branch out, because it indicates a growing base for workers and customers, he said.

Mayor Peter Milobar said the census growth rate matches what City staff predicted using building permits and household averages. They estimated a 1.25 per cent increase per year. “We’re almost bang on,” he said.

Those figures are used when the City seeks funding or grants from the provincial and federal governments, he said. It also helps when the City looks at shopping areas, road networks and other infrastructure. “We have to be mindful of planning ahead on projects. We have to be ready to move if need be, for infrastructure grants,” he said.

City administrator Randy Diehl said a slightly higher growth rate would be nice, but the 6.6 per cent in five years is manageable. “When you have zero or no growth, your economy tends to be in big trouble. It’s not sustainable, people have a hard time making a living,” he said. “When you get higher than 2.5 to three per cent, it’s difficult for local government to keep up with the pace of change and demand on service from pipes and pavement to softer services like parks and recreation.”

While City council has been raising the idea of building a new performing arts centre in Kamloops, that’s driven more by the arts community than the population numbers, Diehl said. “It’s about the community that makes use of those facilities that wants more,” he said.

City community development supervisor Randy Lambright said the census figures match what was forecast in KamPlan as far back as 1997.

The stats also showed the number of homes in Kamloops was at 36,900 in 2011, compared with 34,100 in 2006 — a jump of about 8.1 per cent or 558 homes per year, he said.

That, too, was in keeping with the City’s predictions. “We’ve always said if we grow at 500 plus dwellings a year, that’s very manageable,” he said.

It’s a pace that lets the City keep up with infrastructure demands and doesn’t dump a huge tax burden on residents, Lambright said.

Knowing the City’s predictors are so close to reality helps keep on top of cost estimates so there aren’t massive fluctuations in utility or tax rates, he said. It also helps manage the available land supply, preventing sprawl and containing the growth, he said.

Statistics Canada will be releasing more information in the coming months, which Sulz is eagerly anticipating. “I’m really looking forward to finding out some of the details. I’m interested to see what age demographics are moving to each community.” Some of the age demographics are being released in late May, while Statistics Canada will be putting out information about households, families, homes and language in September.

How do we compare?

Statistics Canada released information Wednesday from the 2011 census that shows population increases for the following cities in B.C. that are comparable to Kamloops:
* Kamloops, 85,678 in 2011, 80,376 in 2006, up 6.6 per cent
* Nanaimo, 83,810 in 2011, 78,692 in 2006, up 6.5 per cent
* Kelowna, 117,312 in 2011, 107,035 in 2006; up 9.6 per cent
* Prince George, 71,974 in 2011, 70,981 in 2006, up 1.4 per cent
* Chilliwack, 77,936 in 2011, 69,217 in 2006, up 12.6 per cent.

Mobile-Home Fires Spark Safety Reminders, Kamloops This Week

This article was written by Jeremy Deutsch of Kamloops This Week on January 9th, 2012.

Kamloops Real Estate House Fire SafetyFor some, a mobile home is an affordable alternative to buying a house or an apartment.

But, when a fire breaks out, they can be particularly deadly — especially older mobile units.

“They are a concern to us,” Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Neill Moroz told KTW.

He said the problems tend to arise in older units that have a wood-panelling finish on the interior, because a fire can spread faster than in new models built with drywall.

Mobile homes in general also tend to be smaller and more confined, which can make it harder to escape, while putting occupants closer to flammable material.

Older units have become such a concern in recent weeks that the B.C. Coroners Service and Office of the Fire Commission have taken the unusual step of issuing safety warnings to owners and operators of mobile-home parks in the province.

The two provincial organizations noted studies that show fires in mobile homes tend to be more devastating than in other forms of housing.

The warnings come after seven people were killed in a five-day span in five separate fires around B.C. at the end of 2011.

One of the fires in Sicamous took the life of a father and his two young children.

Mobile-home fires can also be a challenge for firefighters due to  the speed in which the units burn.

“When a fire reaches a certain point, it’s extremely dangerous for our firefighters to enter,” Moroz said.

There are steps mobile-home owners can take to reduce the fire risk.

Moroz said every unit should have working smoke detectors and occupants should have a way of getting out from every room.

The B.C. Coroners Service has also put together several recommendations, including:

• Have furnaces inspected at least once a year and clean the blower and filters often to prevent overheating.

• Keep the furnace area clear of clutter.

• Ensure electrical wiring and appliances are in good working order.

• Watch for signs of wiring trouble, including flickering lights for no apparent reason; warm, inoperable, strange-smelling or discoloured switch plates or outlets; sparking or electrical arcing; or a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker.

• Never run extension cords under rugs.

• Avoid the use of space heaters if at all possible. If it is essential to use one, use a CSA-approved model and ensure it is well away from drapes, bedding, clothing and other flammable materials.

• Consideration should be given to replacing wood-based combustible wall coverings with gypsum board products, which slow the progression of fire.

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