By Trevor Busch
Taber and District Chamber of Commerce have their sights set on a new home, and the Town of Taber has stepped in to help facilitate that process with the purchase of vacant property in the downtown area.
Originally approved following closed session discussion at a Dec. 19, 2019, special meeting, the town has acquired approximately 1.3 acres of land located at 5431 47th Avenue.
The purchase includes two separate parcels of lots (Lots 18-34, Block 5, Plan 5638L and Lots 20-36, Block 6, Plan 5638L) for a total of $904,000. Both parcels had separate sale prices, broken down into purchases of $443,000 and $461,000. Only one of the lot parcels will be utilized by the chamber for construction of a new office.
“Council has directed administration to purchase those two lots for sale between the liquor store and the police station (roughly between 57th Street and 54th Street),” said CAO Cory Armfelt following the announcement of the project in mid-January. “One of the parcels is related to the chamber of commerce, that is the east block. The west block, council has also purchased that together just for future considerations.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop argued an additional purchase of lots as part of council’s decision in December made sense for the municipality.
“There’s two parcels, but the west portion has not been established what we’re going to do with that just yet, but they’re interested in the east side. It’s not in stone yet as far as that goes, but we just thought they’re both for sale from the same landowner, and if you’re going to do one you’re better off doing both for future expansion and benefit for the town and area. Cosmetically, availability and visibility all ties into that. Location-wise it’s great as far as that project, and something in future.”
Town council saw this opportunity as “another way to help drive Taber’s economic growth as its business community continues to expand.” The new location will allow the chamber greater exposure being visible from Highway 3.
“This is going to be an exciting future for the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce,” said chamber president Joanne Sorensen in a press release. “With a new location nearer to the core of our businesses and visible from Highway 3, we will be able to provide even more services for our members and to help continue to promote and foster Taber as a great place to visit and grow a business.”
The arrangement with the chamber regarding ownership, construction, and a possible lease scenario still needs to be hammered out with the town in negotiations, but Prokop hinted the deal could be similar to those worked out with organizations like the Taber Golf Club or Taber Gymnastics Fitness Club.
“I think it would be similar to the golf course. So basically the town provides land, and then a chamber project to be paid for over time,” said Prokop. “It’s still very preliminary. There was a base design that was shown at council prior to this land purchase, as a guide. It’s a joint project, a chamber initiative, they came to us originally. But we believe in that project and think it’s a great idea, and because that’s considered kind of the gateway centre to the town of Taber, there needs to be something more visible. There was two prime lots there that had been for sale for quite some time.”
In conversation with Armfelt, the experience of the Taber Gymnastics Fitness Club and the Taber Golf Club, where the town has facilitated a loan and those organizations have paid for it, is a possible scenario for how the arrangement might play out.
“Those nitty-gritty details frankly haven’t been worked out with the chamber as of yet. But the golf club and the gymnastics club (arrangements) have worked so well, where the town has purchased the property and then gone into an acquired loan benefitting that organization. That organization has paid for that loan so there’s no impact to the finances of the taxpayers of the Town of Taber, because a third party is paying for the loan that the town has facilitated.”
This type of arrangement has worked well for the town in the past, asserts Prokop.
“I would expect some debenture format is likely plausible to be in place. Because that’s been done before and worked very well, it’s never been a problem. Of course the town benefits from any big business being able to get some better rates there for that purpose. It’s win-win all the way around for an end result. As I said, it’s worked very well before, and I don’t think there’s anything scary or negative about it, about going that route. It’s a more than reasonable format to go with that helps both parties involved, ultimately for the benefit of our community.”
Ideally, a new building will allow the chamber to “provide a modern space with additional tenants that highlights the town as a progressive and engaged community” to set up a business.
“It’s a variety of different spaces where different organizations are to be housed,” said Prokop. “That’s kind of the vision. Again, that’s just very preliminary, and I think they have some in mind but I don’t think there’s anything concrete yet. It’s just speculative at this stage.”
The chamber will be responsible for the costs associated with their new building, with construction to commence at a date to be announced by the chamber in the future.
“The way the chamber was talking, ideally this year sometime if that could work. I don’t know if the springtime or summer to start the project is necessarily doable or not,” said Prokop. “I know they’re doing some preliminary work now. If that comes together, it’s just a matter of doing the tender process, and get all the necessary ducks in a row. The plan is to be constructed this year sometime, so I would expect — assuming things run smoothly, and no unforeseen snags arise — then in all likelihood there’ll be an official groundbreaking ceremony.”