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Company’s housing problem led to Castlegar development proposal

One of the partners involved in a proposed mixed-use development in Castlegar says the project came about because prospective employees were having a hard time finding a place to live.

“What it came down to for us was the critical housing shortage and rental shortage,” says Doug Sutherland, president of the Sutherland Group, the parent company to Sutco Transportation and several other businesses that have been operating in the Kootenays for 26 years.

“As we grow our organization, as do others in Castlegar and its outskirts, we continue to be strained by not having housing. So we have qualified team members that want to join the community but can’t find housing.”

Sutherland says they have worked with the City of Castlegar for a couple of years to find solutions, but realized that since they were not property developers, they needed to find someone who was.

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Through a business leadership group, Sutherland and his brother met Daryl Martini, CEO of Vancouver-based Nexus Development Group and Construction, who grew up in Trail and has relatives in Castlegar.

“Nexus has a great reputation and is well versed in this,” Sutherland says. “This partnership is critical to get something going in the Kootenays.”

“I know the area quite well and thought this is a great opportunity to do a project in Castlegar,” Martini says. “It felt like I was coming home. I was excited to be part of it.”

While the exact details of the proposal have not been nailed down, the basic idea is a multi-storey condo complex to be built in the 2400 block of Columbia Avenue, on two adjacent pieces of property to be acquired from the City of Castlegar. The building would have a combination of commercial units as well as one and two-bedroom residential suites.

Martini says he is impressed with civic improvements that have taken place in Castlegar in recent years and is keen on the location for the development, which will partly be on the site of Brandson Park.

“We liked that this connected to a park. We’ve tried to design the building so it takes advantage of not only the park lands but we’re creating a product that would integrate into the city, creating some commercial, live-work and residential spaces which are very much needed in the area.”

Martini said their goal is not to take away from the existing park, but to enhance it. “We designed it in a way that we’re creating an integrated park-like environment so it flows from the park into our green space [and vice versa].”

Martini estimates the commercial portion of the building will be somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000 square feet.

The building is also expected to be another showcase for Kalesnikoff Lumber’s cross-laminated timber.

“We are designing the building with the CLT panels that Kalesnikoff produces in mind,” Martini says. “That is part of the driver. We’ll work with them to figure out how to do this cost effectively.”

The city is now soliciting public feedback on the proposal, which will require rezoning to proceed. Martini said they look forward to hearing from residents and “would love to get into construction as quickly as possible in 2022.”

Sutherland said while many recent projects have been focused in Nelson, where he used to live, he’s excited to see something like this in Castlegar.

“I’d love to see a thriving Castlegar. We have 250 team members between our organizations and Castlegar is our hub. It’s the largest location for all our team.”

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