Nelson Commons, at 777 Baker Street, has been the Kootenay Co-op’s home since December 2016. Learn more about how the Kootenay Co-op designed and built a Nelson landmark and gathering place.

History

The Kootenay Co-op started in 1975 as a buying club in the Slocan Valley, and eventually moved into the 200 block of Baker Street (Read more about the Co-op’s history.) By 2012, it was clear that our Co-op had outgrown the space and needed to make a big move. Our Co-op Board of Directors also recognized that leasing space created risk for our Co-op.

Our Co-op embarked on a property hunt in Nelson, aiming to keep the business downtown. After considering a number of other sites, the Co-op was able to purchase the 700 block property. The landowner decided not to renew the lease with the previous tenant (Extra Foods, a chain owned by the giant food company Loblaw’s) in order to sell the land to our Co-op.

The building process

Nelson Commons site model

With a parcel of land, the planning process for our new store could begin in earnest. Our Co-op Board consulted with members, staff, and industry experts and decided to build a new building rather than refurbish the inefficient and high-maintenance building that was on site. The ultimate design, completed with local and national architecture firms, allowed for over 20,000 square feet of retail space, expanded offices for our co-op, 54 condominiums, and six street-facing commercial spaces for sale or lease.

Financing for Co-op projects can be difficult because our business structure is different from typical corporations. Our co-op received support from local and provincial credit unions, private partnership, and member loans. Nelson District Credit Union, Vancity Credit Union, and Kootenay Savings Credit Union all helped with financing the project. Members also loaned our co-op more than $1.7 million.

About the new building

The building includes 54 condominiums, which our co-op sold to private owners. The Nelson Commons homeowners formed an association to manage the shared resources of the residents. Four of the units were designated for restricted re-sale, meaning that they were sold at below market rates to qualifying families with the caveat that future sales also maintain the affordability of the units. The largest unit did not have a qualified buyer, so our co-op sold the unit at market value and donated the proceeds to Nelson’s affordable housing trust fund.

Interested in living at Nelson Commons? We don’t blame you, it’s a nice place to live. However, our Co-op no longer owns or manages any of the living spaces – you’ll have to check real estate and rental listings for Nelson for any vacancies. Good luck!

The six commercial spaces are intended to add to the variety of Nelson retail and commercial opportunities. The Kootenay Columbia College leases two spaces for their massage program, and two spaces have been sold to private owners.

The Nelson Commons design includes a promenade connecting the store to Baker Street. The promenade is owned by our Co-op but designed asĀ  a public space for people to congregate, a sorely lacking resource in downtown Nelson. The promenade will continue to be improved with plantings, lighting, and art installation.

The new Kootenay Co-op store offers members two new departments, and greatly increased shopping space. The Kootenay Co-op Butcher Shop follows strict guidelines to offer ethical protein sources, and the new Kootenay Co-op Kitchen offers prepared food for dining in or take out, using mostly organic ingredients. The store also offers a teaching kitchen for our many cooking and wellness classes, and a community meeting space.

Nelson Commons was built to take advantage of passive solar heating and lighting. The entire building is primarily heated with waste heat from the refrigeration system, and is highly efficient. Lighting in the store is primarily LED and designed with motion sensors and timers to reduce unneeded electricity.

You can take a virtual tour of the new store here.

The Nelson Commons has proved to be a useful tool in serving our members and community. Please come pay us a visit!