Today’s Poll

Out with the old: Nelson Commons begins

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
January 30th, 2015

It won’t take long to bring down the old building.

But it will take longer to put up a new one.

And Nelson residents Lena and Marty Horswill can hardly wait. The retired couple bought a two bedroom condo in the Nelson Commons, a 54 unit retail/residential complex that came one step closer to reality this week, when the first cement blocks of the old Extra Foods building were demolished.

By Christmas, 2016, the Horswills will be dining in their new condo at the 700 Block of Baker Street. “I think we’re ready,” he said with relish, looking forward to parking his car and walking where he wants to go.

The Horswills are not the only ones who are excited that the project is finally underway.

“It’s been a lot of slogging,” said project manager Russell Precious as he explained the complexity of developing the vision adopted by the Co-op and its members—two years in the making.

Financing, architectural design (the architects are Doukhobors raised in the Kootenays), legal restrictions, and building contracting  have been some of the challenges that the food Co-op has met in becoming a developer, said Precious.

The Co-op bought the site in 2012 intending to renovate and increase its retail space by some 4,000 square feet.

But along the way, after much research and consumer surveys, it became apparent that the Co-op could triple its retail space, sell the remaining space, provide much needed high density downtown housing and provide Co-op members with food security at competitive prices, Precious said.

“There’s  a lot of moving parts,” said Precious. “It’s a good workout.”

The $26 million housing/retail project got the green light in November  when the Kootenay Co-op Food Store announced it had sold enough residential spaces in the complex to begin building.

Phase one began this week when the demolition crews moved in.

“The demolition will be completed by mid February, “said Deirdre Lang, the project’s general manager. “Then excavation for parking and the shoring and underpinning begins.”

Space for 65 resident vehicles will be underground while another 54 spaces will be provided in front of the food Co-op.

Concrete pouring is expected to take until the end of August, wood framing of the residential units until December and the roughing in and finishing from December to June, 2016.

Resident occupancy can begin in the summer of 2016 with the Co-op store opening the  fall of 2016.

“We’re creating a space that will be highly energy efficient,” said Precious. He gave an example of how energy will be captured to serve another need.

“This is going to be built to last. There is a new urban movement. Studies have shown that a downtown that is inhabited is much more alive.

“We’re not creating a resort for Albertans. This is for local people,” he said, estimating that the mix of the residential demographics is weighted on the “young baby boomer” side.

Precious said the store is “more or less designed.” New features will be a full on kitchen, a 50 seat restaurant area with more attention paid to every department, including meat, seafood and cheese.

“We took on the role as developer, but we can hardly wait to get back into the food business,” he said.

And as for the Horswills, “We are hugely attracted to living right downtown. We’re across from the Medical Clinic, across from my dentist, down the block from our favourite restaurant and right above the wine store!”

And in the meantime, they can watch their building be built brick by brick on a web cam across the street that takes updated photos every five minutes…with no osprey nests in sight (

Categories: General