Even in a buoyant real estate market, the plan for condominiums and a hotel on the Columbia River near Waneta Plaza seemed grandiose by Trail standards when it was announced in 2006. Five years later, the dreamers have been pushed aside and the moneymen and lawyers have taken over.
The primary mortgage holder, an Alberta finance company, has won court approval to sell the 5.14-acre site on Highway 3B near Rock Island. Would-be developer Steve Jonason paid $500,000 for the property, against which he borrowed a total of $1.7 to fund the land purchase and feasibility work.
“There was a development plan for condos and a hotel but for one reason or another – part of it would have been the turn in the markets – the project never went ahead,” said Richard Daoust of Century 21Kootenay Homes, which is the new listing agent for the land.
When the property, which has 1,180 feet of highway frontage, was rezoned by the city in 2006 to accommodate a 130-unit hotel and 60 condos Daoust thought the project sounded ambitious. Now that he has had a closer look, his impression hasn’t changed.
“You would have to do a lot of highway access work and it would need a lot of fill. There are also some city services that need upgrading.”
With commercial development in Greater Trail largely at a standstill, it will likely be a while before anything happens there. But, he has had some inquiries.
“There has been a couple of parties interested in it, perhaps at nowhere near that asking price. One outfit has had an appraisal done. And one is looking at it for a possible hotel down the road . . . a long-term-hold type of property.”
The developer, who worked on a similar development in Sicamous that was completed, could not be reached for comment at his home there. He is originally from Alberta.
Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs said he talked to Jonason only a few weeks ago and he continues to express interest in the project, despite the added insolvency hurdle.
“He has some major problems to resolve, obviously, before he can do anything,” Bogs said.
“We did a lot of work with him and he got final approval from Highways. But it is a very challenging piece of property because there has to be some fill put in and then they would need a fairly decent lift station to tie into the sewer. That is fairly pricey. It is a very challenging property from a number of perspectives.”
Bogs said the developer was “very close to making the whole thing a success,” when he ran into difficulty on some of his other projects “that really put this whole thing in jeopardy and put him into the financial position he is in now.
“Hopefully, he can sort out these issues because he really does think Trail is underdeveloped and has potential.”
Bogs said the Rock Island plan called for a “beautiful” riverfront complex that would certainly be a welcome addition to the city.
Daoust described the local residential real estate market as on the upswing, but fragile in terms of buyer reaction to world-wide economic events.
“In the last six month the market has started to gain momentum, but it is in spurts. It almost goes right along with the stock market: when it hits the fan and people see what is going on in Greece, (real estate demand) just dies, and then it slowly picks up again.
“Anything $500,000 or over is a very hard to sell, whether it’s good value or not. The $350,000 to $400,000 level is the highest people will go.”
Most of the small number of new homes that have been built in the area this year have been at the Rossland golf course, he noted.