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Redevelopment of prime Courtenay property has cafe fearing for future

Property underneath Airpark Beachwood Cafe is gaining a lot of attention from redevelopers

A Comox Valley family fears that their cafe will be demolished, causing $50,000 in moving fees and prompting them to get new jobs.

That’s because the cafe that Sonia and Pawan Saroop bought two years ago is on valuable land. They are the owners of Airpark Beachwood Cafe at 2270 Cliffe Ave., a property which has been in the crosshairs of redevelopment.

Platinum Properties Group, a Vancouver real estate investment firm, in early August submitted a redevelopment proposal. The application submitted to the City of Courtenay proposes to demolish the building at 2270 Cliffe Ave. and replace it with a more modern, six-storey upgrade.

The proposed upgrade would consist of housing, business units, and two levels of underground parking. It’s strictly positives from a development point-of-view, said project manager Martin Jirout.

“It’s very hard for me and the other people working on the project to imagine that this wouldn’t be approved,” he said. “Based on doing the research before we started.”

The proposed building, called “Skypark Landing,” would add 140 housing units to the property, which currently has none. The project would also rebuild space for up to 11 businesses.

The new units would serve to replace the old, effectively canceling-out what would be lost by destroying the two-storey business complex.

When it comes to the store owners that would be ejected by the redevelopment, Jirout told the Record that they would have the opportunity to return once construction is over. He couldn’t say, however, if returning businesses would get priority in a hypothetical line-up for the new units.

Sonia and Pawan Saroop purchased the cafe less than two years ago. They had a son in May, and purchased a house in Courtenay. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

The cost of moving

Returning to the property is not a realistic option for Sonia and Pawan, the owners of Airpark Beachwood Cafe. That’s because the time it takes them to move and rebuild is too long to suspend business at their cafe.

“I can’t just close it down for three to five years,” said Sonia. “I haven’t even made what I paid for it.”

Sonia and her husband purchased the business less than two years ago. At the time, they were told that the building was subject to a lot of redevelopment interest.

“I kind of knew it was going to happen,” said Sonia.

Seeming to have already done the math, Sonia estimates the cost to move to a new location would be a minimum of $50,000 for her and her husband. At such a cost, it would be foolish to return to the property, she said, because the couple can’t afford to pay for this twice.

“If it’s three to five years, we won’t be coming back here. We will just find another place.”

An architect’s model of SkyPark Landing gives vision to the project. Storefront units are seen on the ground floor, allowing space for up to 11 businesses, whereas housing units are seen above. The building model is thought to create a customer base for the businesses, while providing convenience to the residents. (Photo submitted)

‘Skypark’ plan checks boxes

City of Courtenay director of development services Marianne Wade told the Record that the project would take roughly eight months to a year for final approval.

The application would need to pass three readings at council, review by city planning staff, review by the Ministry of Transportation and potentially a public hearing. A community info meeting about the proposal would come in about four months time.

Top on the city’s priority list for this project is making sure that traffic impacts are dealt with, said Wade. As the building would have 140 housing units and 11 businesses, the city would need to improve the intersection in front at Cliffe Avenue and Mansfield Drive.

Several things make the proposal seem likely to pass, however.

According to Wade, the project is supported by city policies. These are the boxes that planners look to check when deciding whether a project can be approved.

For one, the property in question is located inside a “Primary Growth Centre.” The six-storey building was proposed for a spot in Courtenay that the city designated as most appropriate for dense growth.

Secondly, the project would follow the city’s goal of creating “walkable communities,” said Wade. It would create housing in a hub where businesses and amenities are nearby.

It’s not the first time this property has been targeted. In 2008, an eight-storey complex was approved for the plot of land, with many similarities to today’s project. Next door, the neighbouring Whistle Stop Pub was also granted approval in recent years to build a mixed residential and commercial building.

Weavers Leather has been in the 2270 Cliffe Ave. building for 12 years. The bike shop storefront is seen in the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 28. (Connor McDowell/Comox Valley Record)

Second business not interested in returning

Kelli Weaver, co-owner of Weaver’s Leather, has been in the building for 12 years. She told the Record she too is not planning on returning to 2270 Cliffe Ave. if the property is redeveloped.

“I don’t feel it would be a great fit,” said Weaver. “Motorcycles coming and going, I wouldn’t choose that.”

Weaver’s Leather, a motorcycle gear shop, relies on bikers pulling up and parking at the front door. The problem is that motorcycles can be loud, and Weaver thinks the noise would be unwelcome beneath 140 housing units.

She’s not upset about the prospect of leaving, however, despite that the building has “been a really great location” for her shop. She said the news “doesn’t come as a shock at all,” and that she and her husband knew for many years that the property was on borrowed time.

“You have to look at these things as opportunities for change.”

Change in Courtenay

The complex at 2270 Cliffe Ave. was built in the ‘70s. Fifty years old, and on it’s second application to be redeveloped, maybe change is inevitable.

Senior project manager of the proposed new development, Martin Jirout, said today’s building is making less-than-best use of the valuable land. There’s vacant units on the second floor, he said, because the property manager has difficulty leasing the “outdated” spaces.

The Skypark Landing project would introduce modern housing units ranging from studios to three bedrooms. Jirout pointed to a recent development in Nanaimo, also done by Platinum Properties Group called Riverstone Place, as an example of what these units may look like.

A housing unit is seen at Riverstone Place in Nanaimo. The room gives example of what units may look like in SkyPark Landing, as the building was developed by the same team looking to build SkyPark in Courtenay. (Photo submitted)

As the city undergoes its review process, and the prospect of council readings rests on the horizon, Sonia and Pawan Saroop continue their day to day. They’re raising their first baby, a boy, who was born in May, and settling into their new home, purchased that same month.

The redevelopment proposal has the couple thinking they’ll soon look for new jobs in town, so that they can keep paying their mortgage while they move the business. Meanwhile, the couple keeps their eyes open for a new spot on Cliffe Avenue for their cafe.

ALSO: Courtenay council grants third reading to pub/condo proposal

Connor McDowell

About the Author: Connor McDowell

Started at the Record in May 2023. He studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax
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