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Castlegar secures funding for Columbia Avenue housing project

Castlegar Mayor Maria McFaddin says the City is just waiting on funding and approval for the healthcare component of the project before it can move into the final design phase.

Last week, the BC Government announced it would fund the 68-unit housing initiative planned for 925 Columbia Ave in Castlegar.

The project, which entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 2023, will see a new, four-story housing and healthcare facility constructed on the site of the Pioneer Arena, which was deemed at the end of its life in 2016.

The city secured funding through BC Housing’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund, which Mayor Maria McFaddin says will cover the entire housing component, but she couldn’t comment on the total cost.

McFaddin said now that funding for the housing side has been secured, the next steps are to figure out the scope of the project in relation to the healthcare side of it.

The city will now begin engaging with architects, partners, the project developer, and housing provider, Lu’ma Native, to finalize details of the entire project. Then, staff will present their findings to council for approval before moving into the final design phase.

Construction could begin as early as this fall or as late as next spring. McFaddin said the Pioneer Arena will need to be demolished first, but that the city isn’t sure when that will happen.

“The Pioneer will be demolished before we break ground; that’s why we’re not sure if this last season was its last season at the Pioneer or not, but that’s what we were planning for but uh that’s still not set in stone yet.”

Funding announcements for the healthcare component of the project should be coming in the next few months.

McFaddin said that right now the city is in discussion with the province regarding leasehold improvements and with Prima Health Cooperative, a local not-for-profit led by family practitioners that will administer the healthcare side.

“We’re hoping to hear back on the funding soon; they’ve [the province] said spring-summer, but you never know. It’s always a moving target when you’re talking about all different levels of government trying to align such a big project. So we aren’t totally sure but we’re hoping that spring/summer we’ll find out some more concrete numbers and possibilities for that project.”

The project has been in the works for 14 years. However, not everyone is supportive of it, specifically ice users of the Pioneer Arena who have been vocal about how its demolition will negatively impact the community.

Despite the concerns, McFaddin said the project is a huge win for the community, and that she doesn’t want the benefits it will bring overshadowed by the concerns.

“I understand how difficult it is for the Pioneer user groups, but I also understand that my job is to fit and balance all of the priorities for the community within the assets and spaces that we have,” she said.

“This project, as far as housing, is a really big win for our community, especially those that do not have a house. So I don’t want the discussion that’s been in the work for 14 years to overshadow what good news this is for those in our community that are struggling right now.”

The city has identified the need for another 464 housing units in the next few years to meet demand.

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