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Castlegar finds partners for Kootenay Gallery project

The City of Castlegar has found two groups to help turn a city-owned downtown property into the new home of the Kootenay Gallery and build new affordable housing.

The city sought expressions of interest last year for partners on the project at 310 Columbia Ave. and 1224 3rd St., the site of the Eremenko block. It said it wanted someone who could move the project forward through the design, construction, and management phases.

Council agreed this week to go with a joint proposal from Steel River Group, an Indigenous-owned Calgary-based group of companies who would be involved on the construction side, and Vancouver-based Lu’ma Native Housing Society, who would manage the residential units.

A staff report said the city also received another strong proposal from the Connective Support Society.

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A selection committee made up of three members of city staff and three members of the Kootenay Gallery reviewed the proposals and conducted interviews before deciding to recommend the proposal from Steel River and Lu’ma.

The staff report said Steel River has offices throughout BC and Alberta and has been involved in recent housing projects in Grand Forks, Cranbrook, and Osoyoos. Lu’ma is a non-profit with experience managing a variety of mixed use and mixed tenancy projects in the Lower Mainland.

City planning manager Meeri Durand says one of the things that appealed to them about the bid was that the design team has experience designing museum and art gallery spaces in Banff National Park.

“This was an important consideration given the unique nature and needs of the project combining the two objectives of housing and art gallery space,” she wrote in the report.

City council’s discussion centred less on whether to enter into the partnership and more on whether councillors should have been part of the selection process.

Some, including Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff and Dan Rye, wished they had been more involved. But Maria McFaddin and mayor Kirk Duff disagreed.

With help from the Columbia Basin Trust, the city bought the property with the goal of redeveloping the site for the Kootenay Gallery, which has long been hoping to find a location closer to the city centre. Its present location is across from the airport, next to the Doukhobor Discovery Centre.

Two concepts have been developed, one that would co-ordinate the funding and construction of the two building components, and the other would see them developed independently.

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