Spirit Square project will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
February 23, 2018 - 5:08am

KAMLOOPS — Sometimes the City of Kamloops gets it right and I think the new plan for Spirit Square is one of those times.

Arpa Investments and the City announced agreement this week on a land swap that will pave the way for redeveloping the area around Spirit Square between MacKenzie Avenue and Tranquille Road.

It will include two mixed-use buildings that will encompass a restaurant and commercial space, and 43 affordable housing units for seniors, plus parking.

The project will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse and add to the regeneration of the Tranquille Road retail corridor.

Spirit Square itself was a mistake, built with the help of provincial money as “a celebration of the history and geography of the North Shore.” That’s how then-mayor Terry Lake put it in 2008 when it was announced.

The City put in half the $750,000 cost of the project, the provincial government the other half as part of B.C.’s 150th birthday celebration.

But it is a cold, uninviting place that is seldom used for the community events it was supposed to encourage. Why would anyone want to be there when McDonald Park is just a couple of blocks away?

Those who do use it are sometimes not of a law-abiding nature, a concern to neighbours who have been trying for years to make the area more friendly and attractive.

The Arpa project will turn Spirit Square into a proper courtyard for the new buildings, making it an inviting people place. In essence, it corrects a 10-year-old error.