The Station plants a hub of rejuvenation in Duncan BC
“What we wanted was a solid physical and financial foundation from which to pursue our mission. We were spending untold hours on fundraising—we realized that we needed sustainable income in order to develop sustainable food. Vancity was our knight in shining armour.”
Up until recently, The Phoenix Station Motor Inn in downtown Duncan was a pub, liquor store, and 20 unit short term rental hotel, more a detriment than an asset to the surrounding community. But thanks to a new vision from the Cowichan Green Community Society, a fresh purpose for the property emerged and it has transformed into a new collaborative hub of sustainable living and community renewal called The Station.
The Station is now a real-life representation of collaboration. The old lobby and bar area is a community kitchen. The ballroom has been transformed into CGS’s office space. The hotel rooms have been updated to immaculate affordable rental units. The outdoor space is now a demonstration urban food forest. And aligned businesses are renting the retail space.
As a for-profit project run by a not-for-profit society, The Station’s not exactly your typical mixed-use building. Vancity used a suite of tools and resources to support CGS in navigating the project. This included a $1.5 million mortgage, affordable housing expertise and even using their network to source suitable tenants. When an anchor tenant pulled out at the last minute, Vancity stepped up with a refinancing arrangement, adding $375,000 to keep the project moving and cover cost overruns.
“Many parts of the credit union worked to make this happen,” says Kira Gerwing manager (Impact Real Estate) at Vancity, who worked on co-ordinating all the different players. “We wanted to do this deal because it’s a great model for mission-driven organizations to own their own real estate as a way to stabilize their income and deliver good programming.”
Now that the finances are on steady footing, CGS can focus on what it wants to—transforming community with food and friendship.
“People who used to feel vulnerable say ‘I’m so glad The Station is here—I now feel safe.’ People feel passionate about the space—whether gardening, cooking or volunteering. It used to be a dive, but now it’s a happy, positive space that spills over into everything else.”