Castanet is revisiting the top stories of an eventful 2023. Today, for our Kamloops business story of the year, we look at a trend of increased development activity taking place north of the river.
A drive along the Tranquille corridor past a number of construction sites confirms a trend seen in City of Kamloops data — the North Shore is alive with development, even on track to outpace other parts of the city.
Joshua Knaak of ARPA Investments, the development firm behind several projects on the North Shore, said he’s seen the area change since the company’s first neighbourhood build got underway about seven years ago.
“One of the things that’s funny is now we’re starting to hear questions about parking, where are people going to park. I think that’s a terrific issue to have here on the North Shore, because if we have parking issues, it means we actually have attractions,” Knaak said.
“Obviously it’s something that needs to get resolved, but I think that it’s a great problem to have.”
The City of Kamloops’ development, engineering and sustainability division reports that in 2021, it received 13 development permit applications for the North Shore and 39 for the rest of the city.
In 2022, the city received 18 North Shore development permit applications and 42 for the rest of the city.
As of last month, the city said it has received 21 development permit applications for the North Shore so far this year, compared to 19 for the rest of the city.
Jeremy Heighton, executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association, said he expects about seven buildings to go up in the area in the next couple of years — potentially as many as 11. He noted developments take some time to rise, and the process behind those specific builds started years ago.
“We’re seeing a draw to the North Shore for a number of reasons. Number one, when you’re putting [tens of millions] into a project, I think you need to know the community is going to embrace that project,” Heighton said.
“Here on the North Shore, I think we’re very open to the next steps.”
That observation is shared by Knaak, who moved his family to the North Shore in 2016, where they “fell in love with the neighbourhood and with the potential that we saw.”
Knaak said he noticed underused land on the North Shore, coupled with community support for fresh development.
“If you wanted to build something you got the support from the neighbourhood,” he said.
“It wasn’t a war — it wasn’t like pulling teeth. It was, ’You’re going to do something? That’s great. We are behind it.’”
ARPA Investments has completed a number of North Shore developments, including the Colours on Spirit Square, the Yew Street Food Hall and The Station. Riverfront residential build Thompson Landing is under construction on Royal Avenue, and The Innova project on Tranquille Road is slated to break ground in the spring.
Knaak noted the area’s zoning allows for flexibility, and applauded revitalization tax exemptions put in place by the City of Kamloops to encourage mixed-use developments.
“We’ve sold out of our condos, and that’s been a good marketing thing for people to realize they’re going to have reduced property taxes for 10 years,” he said.
Land costs on the North Shore have been consistently lower than in the downtown Kamloops area, which also makes it attractive to develop — although Knaak estimated the cost per square foot of development land has increased “tenfold” since he first purchased property in the area in 2016.
Knaak said he has seen a lot of new businesses spring up on the North Shore as well — entrepreneurs who have realized it’s a “viable alternative” to situating themselves in the downtown core — and neighbourhood streets are filling with people.
“I think what we’re seeing is just more traffic, more people out in the evenings, more people grabbing ice cream with the kids,” he said.
“I think that’s important for the health of the community. And as more people live here and work here, play here, that’s just going to continue to grow.”
Logan McNeil, pharmacist and co-owner of Pivot RX, one of the North Shore’s newest businesses, said the team was looking for its next location after finding success with its unique, modern pharmacy model in Vernon.
“We were looking throughout the Okanagan in some of the major centres and saw a lot of the changes that were happening on [Kamloops’] North Shore, and also recognized the visibility that Tranquille would bring to our business,” McNeil said, adding patient density and lack of services also played a factor in their decision.
“The combination of those led us to purchasing the building here then opening up.”
Joe Falsetta, a pharmacist at Pivot, was born and raised in Kamloops, witnessing first-hand the changes along the North Shore in recent years that have bolstered businesses along the Tranquille corridor.
“I think us being here on Tranquille Road is another another positive step in the right direction, and hopefully we can we can be a part of that positive change in the area here and serve the people of the North Shore,” Falsetta said.
Looking to the future, Knaak said progress on tackling social disruption, crime and vandalism plaguing businesses city-wide will help the North Shore continue to flourish.
Heighton said it’s key for the BIA to be community champions, adding it’s now making moves to complete improvements laid out in a redevelopment plan for Tranquille, a document endorsed by council years ago which “disappeared into a black hole of city budgeting.”
Now, projects underway are improving planters and sidewalks, and crews are installing special shaded brickwork on the streets which will be tied in with new wayfinding and marketing materials.
Tables have been added to a widened sidewalk space near 5Bean Brwebar and Cafe at Tranquille and Knox Street.
“You add an open space where people can come and congregate, and suddenly you create neighbourhoods which are more walkable, more enjoyable,” Heighton said.
“Now as a developer, you come in and you say, ‘I’m going to do a mixed-use building,’ and there are places for people to go, places for people to come and hang out, and that’s what we’re trying to create now.”
He said in the future, he can envision more mixed use buildings and higher density along Tranquille, creating a walkable neighbourhood with services and shops close to residents. The vision is also laid out in the city’s adopted strategy for the area — the North Shore Neighbourhood Plan.
“It really is all about creating this sort of ecosystem of connection between residents, commercial developers, arts and community vibrancy and really folding it all together into something really dynamic,” Heighton said.