The Creekside Apartment building in Port Hardy has a brand new lease on life, and it’s all thanks to owners Greg and Andrea Vance.
Back in August of 2017, part of the fourth floor of the building caught fire around 3:45 a.m. due to an accidental cooking mishap in one of the units. The fire ended up causing enough damage to displace around 65 residents whose futures were uncertain after the 72 hours of support from Emergency Services ended.
The insurance company then brought in remediators to strip out all the water logged cabinets, flooring, drywall, and everything else that had been damaged from the amount of water the fire department had been forced to use in order to put out the flames.
The building stayed gutted until April of 2019, when Vance and his wife made the decision to purchase it with big plans to bring it back to life.
“It just sat idle for a year-and-a-half prior to us buying it,” confirmed Vance, noting the previous owner wasn’t really sure of what to do with it before finally selling to them.
Vance stated it was quite eerie going inside the building for the very first time. “It was literally like people had just left one day, there was still dry goods in some of the cupboards and it was really bizarre.”
As for why they decided to purchase it, Vance said he and wife have owned property in Winter Harbour for 20 years now (outpost, marina, general store, campground, and acreage they are currently developing), “so we’ve got a fairly significant commitment to the North Island and have for awhile — we are huge believers in the future of the area and we believe there is going to be migration north from larger areas. People are soon going to discover the remote beauty of the wilderness the North Island has to offer.”
When the couple first bought the property there’d only been a temporary fix done to the roof, “so our main priority was to get the building water tight,” Vance stated. “We had to get the fire damaged section removed and put in proper replacements.”
He also pointed out there had been some persistant vandalism going on during the summer of 2019, which caused significant damage to the building’s interior.
After getting the RCMP involved, which stopped the vandalism from continuing to be an ongoing issue, they started to get serious about remodelling the interior.
“I applaud the RCMP for helping to give us adequate security so we had a chance to get the project going,” Vance said, noting their goal from the outset was to hire local contractors to do all the work on the building. “Ken Houghton has really been the key contractor who has driven the process, him and his crew have single handedly taken the lead on bringing this building back to life and have done a phenomenal job.”
Vance also acknowledged the support they received from Lawrie Garrett at Community Futures. “Community Futures has been incredibly supportive of our project, realizing the positive effect that the restoration and reopening of this building means to the community.”
Creekside finally received its occupancy permit Jan. 1 and people are now in the process of moving back in.
“At the moment we are bringing half of the building back,” confirmed Vance, “There’s 47 units in the building, and 23 of the units are being rented out now, completely renovated.”
As for the common areas, the hallways have all new lighting, new paint, new carpets, and it’s the same for the laundry facilities. Virtually every suite is also fully refurbished.
They will be looking to rent out the other half of the building’s units tentatively by the spring.
“We’ve put up a Facebook page, done some basic promotion to build awareness that the apartments are coming back, and we’ve had an overwhelming response from all over the community,” said Vance. “It’s been fascinating to see how many people have commented how badly this kind of housing is needed.”
Vance added he’s heard how hard it’s been to recruit working professionals to Port Hardy due to the lack of quality rentals available, and he’s proud that the signigicant improvements to the building have made it a medium to higher tier rental. “There is a real demand for semi-professional and professional workers here in Port Hardy who need a place to stay when they move here.”
He confirmed he is aware there is a drastic need for all tiers of affordable housing, “but to be clear, what we recognized from the start is there was a significant lack of housing for the likes of teachers, health care workers, coast guard, aquaculture, and forestry workers. That kind of housing is almost non-existant, and the demand currently outweighs the supply.”
Prices currently range from $850 a month for a one-bedroom to $1,050 a month for a two-bedroom rental.
Vance wanted to assure the community that they are “committed to running a well maintained, clean, and safe building. We want to be an example of what’s possible in the community and invest in its future. Also, local contractors and local suppliers stepped up and took on this job and supplied virtually all of the goods and services we needed to bring this building back to life, and it’s a testament to the talent that’s available locally — we are very proud of that.”
Vance added they are also looking at purchasing other rental properties in town because they remain committed to the North Island.