Most of the current tenants of the Downtown Activity Centre have found new locations from which to operate after being advised they must vacate the premises by the end of December. (Jodi Brak/Shuswap Market News)

Most of Salmon Arm’s Downtown Activity Centre tenants have found new homes

Too little, too late, say those who have been asked to stay, pending a new real estate deal

Two weeks ago, Carole Rogers, owner-operator of Shuswap Kids Club, pleaded with School District #83 for a little more time in the Downtown Activity Centre (DAC).

But the reply to the DAC tenant was an emphatic “no.”

Like all the other tenants in the well-used building that has been up for sale since May, Rogers was told she had to vacate by the end of December.

“As early as two weeks ago, I wrote to Bruce Hunt (SD83 interim treasurer), telling him we had nowhere safe for our 50 children to get after-school care,” she says, pointing out that until the first week of October, she was planning to stay at the DAC as a community group was planning to buy the building and run it as a recreation centre. “They had to back out of the deal when they couldn’t get insurance.”

Related: Church plan to buy Salmon Arm Downtown Activity Centre fails

Rogers was stunned on Nov. 6 to get a call from a commercial realtor, asking her if she would consider staying at the DAC as there is now another sale pending.

“The school board said everybody’s out because it will sell better empty and now it’s come back to bite them in the butt,” she says, noting that aside from the issue of copper piping that needs replacing, there is still a lot of life in the building. It’s too little, too late. We’ll miss it, this has been a great building for us.”

Rogers is delighted with her newly acquired space in the former Technology Brewing Centre across from Salmon Arm Secondary’s Jackson campus.

The licensed, school-age childcare centre that celebrates 25 years of providing after-school care in January, has received a government grant to renovate the new digs.

“We have just over an acre of land that we’re fencing in, we have a beautiful view and I think we have a top-notch program,” she says, delivering a message to the school board. “Let’s please remember our children are your children and that we should both have the common role of keeping these children safe, even as the bell rings at the end of the day.”

Rogers says The Loft, another DAC user group, is moving to the Family Resource Centre in its new location across the railway tracks on Marine Park Drive.

“They would have stayed too; the school district made a big mistake, they had some non-business people making business decisions,” she says. “It’s a fantastic building, but we’ve got it all where we’re going.”

Related: Trustee won’t delay Downtown Activity Centre sale

Kim Sinclair, executive-director of Aspiral Youth Partners Association that has managed the DAC since taking it over in 2003, understands Rogers’ initial struggles in finding a new space but has a more gentle message for the SD83 board.

“The school board took a chance and we’ve had 15 years of providing a place for the community to gather and create; it’s been an amazing process,” he says.

But Sinclair was also excited to report on Wednesday, Nov. 14 that Aspiral Youth had just received confirmation of their new location at 120 6th St., across from the courthouse.

“We’re feeling really good about it being connected to all the things we need,” he says of the organization that has contracts through the Ministry of Children and Families and a mandate to provide resources for young people who would otherwise be at risk. These include teen-parent conflict resolution, intensive family youth and family support, youth outreach and youths on probation.

“One of the losses is we used to be so close to the storefront school and could offer support, but things happen, things change,” he says, pointing out Aspiral takes possession of its new space later this month. This gives the organization time to more easily transition and get programs up and running.

Related: Salmon Arm citizens hope to purchase former school

Members of another group are also celebrating the prospect of their new home.

CKVS-FM 93.7 Voice of the Shuswap has found a new home at First United Church, becoming part of the church’s GreenSpace initiative that endeavours to bring together groups that are working to better the community, to strengthen and improve relationships and the general life of the community, says Warren Bell.

“It’s quite spectacular from our point of view, to be a significant part of this initiative,” he says, pointing out the society that runs the station is looking for funding to undertake renovations to accommodate the new studio.

He says the church’s focus on community and inclusivity is a model that fits very well with the radio station that aims to “get activities in the community magnified in a positive way.”

“Another benefit of working under the aegis of the church is that they have CRA status,” Bell says, of the ability to provide receipts for donations, an important factor in view of plans to hold a 50/50 draw for the new year.

While the new studio will be built over time, the station will start broadcasting from the church in mid-December.

Related: City asked to acquire DAC

Another tenant, Richard Castano, owner/operator of the Cuba Judo & Taekwondo Academy, has not been quite so lucky to date.

“I’m looking at a couple of things but haven’t come to a firm decision,” he says of a place beside A&W. “I’m seeing if I can negotiate a five-year lease, but I have not signed a contract.”

Castano says he needs a big space for his mats that come from Japan and are valuable. He worries about the prospect of moving them in the snow.

“Parents are helping, but most of the spaces are way too small for the classes of 10 kids,” he says. “It’s very difficult.”

Meanwhile, in a Nov. 14 email, a school district rep confirms there is a potential buyer for the DAC and it is that person who has the commercial realtor asking people if they might still be interested in staying.

“However, we aren’t able to release any information about it until probably the new year, because that’s when we know if there will be a sale or not,” reads the email.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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