The local hardware store aims to keep its local feel while it gets a lot bigger.
Employees gathered at the future home of a much larger, new 12,500 sq.-ft. Home Hardware in downtown Smithers last Friday to celebrate the start of construction with manager Theo Bandstra, contractor Murray Vetsch of Westwind, and Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.
A completion date of Feb. 28 has been set, and Bandstra likes where he is after two years of getting the project into the ground.
“Just happy. It’s been two years of phone calls, emails and drawings, and now … something’s actually happening. It’s rewarding,” he said.
While most large stores needing the space set up shop along Highway 16, the idea of staying downtown was important to Bandstra.
“Next to Heartstrings, it’s a happening place; Canada Post, of course everyone’s going to get their mail; visible from the highway for now. It’s a good little spot hopefully,” he said.
“It still suits Home Hardware to be your local hardware store, so we’re going to try to maintain that feel. Even with the facade and some of our interior finishes, we’re going to try to maintain that local hardware store feel.”
Mayor Bachrach also appreciated the location.
“It’s wonderful to see a long-standing business in our community able to expand and stay downtown. It’s going to be a really important part of our business landscape for years to come,” said Bachrach.
As a result of a new tax break proposed by Smithers council recently for new or renovating businesses that add residential suites, someone will be living on top of the new Home Hardware. A one-bedroom apartment is planned for the second storey.
“The incentive that was provided made it worth it. It will cover off a good chunk of the cost, so going forward after that we can still bring in some rental income that is attractive,” said Bandstra.
The bylaw proposed has a five-year tax exemption of 50 per cent for new businesses that build one residential dwelling per parcel area greater than 290 m2. That goes up for smaller projects than this one to 75 per cent per parcel area between 290 m2 and 145 m2, and 100 per cent or the smallest projects less than 145 m2.
The bylaw still needs to pass final adoption. Bachrach hopes more businesses will see the potential savings and get more people living downtown.
“Certainly that’s our hope. That’s the idea behind the program. Our hope is that we structured it in a way that it provides enough incentive for developers to add residential units to their commercial projects,” he said. “The whole community plan for Smithers for a long time has emphasized downtown and creating a dense, vibrant, walkable downtown core … I think this particular development really contributes to that goal.”
“Downtown is all about diversity and creating conditions for local businesses to be viable,” he added.
The mayor added that a wait-and-see approach would be taken with any concerns that arise with more traffic at the intersection beside Muheim Memorial Elementary School.
“We’re going to have to be adaptive over time and see how having this development in this location affects traffic flows and pedestrian safety. But I don’t think it’s insurmountable. If anything, it’s going to be wonderful to see more activity in this area,” said Bachrach.
“It’s been a vacant lot for a long time and I think with the different neighbours in the area, you’ve got the post office which is a high traffic location and Heartstrings, it’s really going to bring some vitality to this part of our downtown.”