Deal lets Home Building Centre stay and delays museum move

By on April 22, 2015
Plans were unveiled Saturday showing the proposed concept for the new museum, which will be located at the current Home Hardware Building Centre. The front will be opened up with large windows to create an inviting and visible façade.

A conceptual drawing released in June 2013 shows what the Home Building Centre will look like after it becomes the home of the Osoyoos Museum and Archives. The museum has been preparing for the move since then, but will now need to wait another five years. The museum is currently housed in an old quonset building that was once the curling rink. The lack of climate control puts some artifacts at risk. The delay allows the Home Building Centre to continue operating at its present location.

The Town of Osoyoos and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) have signed a deal to extend the lease for the Home Building Centre in downtown Osoyoos until the fall of 2019.

This means the Osoyoos Museum won’t be moving into its new home for another five years, instead of next fall as had been planned since a referendum was approved by local citizens three years ago to make the Home Building Centre its new home.

Home Building Centre proprietor Paul McCann announced three weeks ago that he had informed all staff in Osoyoos that he was closing the store at the end of November, a full 10 months ahead of the scheduled closing originally set for the end of September of 2016.

The town and RDOS own the land where the Home Building Centre property is located and McCann has been leasing the land for more than a decade.

At Monday’s regular meeting of Town of Osoyoos council, Mayor Sue McKortoff and members of council unanimously passed a motion that “requests the RDOS board supports the request from Home Hardware Stores Limited to renew their lease for a further term of three years and three months, commencing on Oct. 1, 2016 and expiring on Dec. 31, 2019, upon the same terms and conditions contained in the lease, except the right of early termination.”

McKortoff said the deal was reached following a lengthy meeting at Osoyoos town hall last Tuesday that included McCann, Chief Administrative Officer Barry Romanko, Mark Pendergraft, the chair of the RDOS board, and Barbara Sutherland, the manager of real estate projects for Home Building Centre’s national office in Ontario.

Back in 2010, Home Building Centre purchased five large lots on land located near the Osoyoos Airport and announced their intention to build a new retail outlet to serve customers in and around Osoyoos.

McCann announced three weeks ago that head office was unwilling to commit to spending several million dollars to build a new location at the airport site.

McKortoff said she and members of council unanimously agreed that keeping this profitable business in Osoyoos and maintaining the 16 full-time jobs was crucial.

“We needed to make a decision quickly as Mr. McCann was offering most of those jobs to his employees in Osoyoos to work at his store in Penticton and we didn’t want that to happen … we wanted those jobs to stay in town,” she said.

While it’s unfortunate that the new museum won’t be able to move into its proposed new home for several more years, council is confident that the current museum will be able to function for several more years at its longtime home, said McKortoff.

“We do realize the museum needs a new home … but I want everyone to know we’re not abandoning the museum,” she said. “It will eventually be moving into this (Home Building Centre location), but it just won’t be happening next year.”

The museum’s fundraising committee will now have additional time to raise money and access grants from senior levels of government without the strict timeline of preparing to move into the new location by next fall, she said.

The referendum clearly shows that the majority of local residents are in favour of supporting the new museum in a new location and signing this deal won’t change the plan, but simply delay it for three more years, she said.

“The town still strongly supports the new museum moving into its new home and we’re not straying from that,” she said. “However, we had to make a difficult decision and we made the decision to extend the lease with Home Building Centre to keep a successful business and several full-time jobs in our community.”

Home Building Centre’s head office won’t commit to building a new location near the airport until there is ample evidence the investment of several million dollars can be justified and she’s hopeful the local economy will continue to improve and the company will be willing to make that investment by the time the lease expires in 2019, said McKortoff.

“This is the best solution we could come up with at this point in time,” she said.

Mat Hassen, president of the Osoyoos Museum Society board, wouldn’t deny he’s deeply disappointed the museum won’t be moving into its new home for at least five more years.

However, he understands why council and the RDOS board have made the decision they have and the museum board will have no choice but to carry on.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” he said. “We’ve had some people working on this initiative for the past seven years and then to be told we won’t be able to move into our new home for another five years is going to be difficult for some museum supporters to grasp.

“But the reality is a decision has been made and we’re going to have to live with it.”

Hassen said he fully understands why council and the RDOS board would support keeping a successful business and several good-paying jobs in town.

But having to delay plans to move into its proposed new home for several years is difficult, he said.

“I fully understand this was a business decision and that those involved were under some serious pressure to keep this business and those jobs in our community,” he said. “I understand the town and RDOS believe they are acting in the best interests of the community.

“But that doesn’t alter the fact that the museum is seriously affected by this decision or the fact that every single thing we’ve done in relation to the museum was based around the fact we were preparing to take ownership of that building on Oct. 1 of next year.”

The Osoyoos Museum Society board of directors held its annual monthly meeting Wednesday night and this decision is sure to create some lively discussion, said Hassen.

All of the cost estimates, promotional material and marketing plan surrounding moving into the Home Building Centre site will be rendered useless after years of hard work, said Hassen.

“They will all have to be completely redone,” he said. “Everything we’ve done for years were under the understanding we would take possession of the building in the fall of 2016, but this decision has been made and we’re going to have to adjust accordingly.’

The current museum on Park Place near the Osoyoos Seniors Centre continues to deteriorate, but the society won’t have any choice but to continue operating out of that location for the next several years, said Hassen.

Travis Loudon, the manager of the Osoyoos Home Building Centre store, was on holidays and said he didn’t hear about the lease extension until contacted by the Osoyoos Times.

“That’s really good news for sure,” he said. “I knew there were some options being looked at to try and keep the store open longer. I’m really happy the store isn’t closing in November and I’m sure all of the employees feel the same.

“We’re (staff) all really hoping this will give enough time to build the new store up at the airport.”

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

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