The provincial minister of social development was in Nelson this past Friday for a firsthand look at the work underway at the CP Rail Station.
Minister Don McRae was interested in the project because it has made use of the province’s Job Creation Partnership, which provides funding for organizations to hire EI-eligible unemployed individuals for short-term jobs that help get them back into the workforce.
“It’s an opportunity for some individuals to get job skills and job training, as well as being an opportunity for the organization to renovate a crucial building in this community,” McRae said of the partnership.
Nelson Chamber of Commerce owns the building and hopes to see it re-opened as a Regional Visitor Gateway and Business Opportunity Centre before the end of next year. The Job Creation Partnership has in invested close to $130,000 in the project over the past two years, which has allowed the Chamber to hire six additional labourers to help move the work along.
Nelson Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson said many of those short-term hires have moved onto jobs with other general contractors or entered trade programs at Selkirk College.
“For this project, the program is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing — getting them experience and getting them back into the work force,” Thomson said.
Plus much-needed work is getting done on the building at the same time.
“The project is really moving along,” Thomson told the minister. “If you would have come down here to see what the building state was like when we first acquired it [in 2010] you would have asked, ‘who in their right mind would want to take on this project.'”
The 10,000-square-foot building still looks pretty rough on the outside, but inside a considerable amount of work has been done. Crews have completed most of the structural repairs to the building and all the electoral and mechanical work. Also in place are all of the wood-chip-and-clay bricks used to insulate the building and create the base for the plaster wall finish.
Now there’s some civil work underway to deal with site drainage and all the new windows and doors are going in. When the weather improves, they can start painting the building.
When it’s finished, the former train station will house the new Regional Visitor Gateway and Business Opportunity Centre, a full-service visitor centre with interpretive displays that introduce people to the region. Invest Kootenay will also have displays set up to let visitors know about local business opportunities. On the second level, there will be office space for the Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates, and a shared community meeting room.
Minister McRae was impressed with what he saw.
“There’s some really innovative work happening to save this old building that obviously has great significance in this community,” he said. “I’m a history teacher by trade and I love old buildings and architecture and history, and I think it’s really important that we celebrate our past in British Columbia.”