Jack Kobayashi remains mum on how much he, Braden Bennett and Antonio Zedda paid for Horwood’s Mall.
“I don’t want my mother to find out,” he said with a chuckle.
They became owners of the First Avenue and Main Street property on July 13.
The trio also owns Latitude Destination Management, 360 Design Build, Kobayashi + Zedda Architects and Baked Cafe. The well-known architects have had offices in the building since 2005. In 2007, they bought Baked Cafe, formerly Backkerei Coffee Haus.
Kobayashi wants to restore the property’s historic qualities. But the changes are “not some big, wholesale renovations,” he said. The first changes may not be easy and will include upgrades to the heating systems.
“(We) don’t have any grandiose plans,” Kobayashi said about the future architectural changes. They want to retain the “funky,” historical quality of the building.
He first became interested in buying the property 10 years ago.
Originally, Horwood’s Mall was two buildings: the Taylor & Drury Building built in the early 1900s and the Northern Commercial built in the mid-1900s. The building’s First Avenue side has an inward-looking mall design. Eventually, they want it become more of a “streetscape view,” with more defined, separate buildings, said Kobayashi.
The new owners plan to continue renting the building to local businesses. There are 40 tenants and 70 storage-locker rentals in the mall, Kobayashi said. They aren’t pursuing new renters, and it’s too early to say if the change in ownership will influence lease prices.
Kobayashi said they are “pretty happy” with their relationship with tenants.
The new owners considered purchasing property in Vancouver, where the previous owner of Horwood’s Mall lives. But they decided investing in Whitehorse was better.
In fact, making things better has been a continual theme in the company’s work. Before purchasing the Baked Cafe in 2007, the architects would sit and talk about what changes they would make to it. Before, it was a fairly “mellow” place, says former Baked barista Mitch Holder.
Carpet has given way to tile. Furniture has become lighter, and the walls are now a bright, burnt orange. It has become not just a place for artists to meet, but for art to be shown.
Before making that purchase, the architects designed housing projects to bring people to downtown Whitehorse. Then they designed a place to meet.
When asked what they’ve learned from that experience, Kobayashi joked, “It makes more sense (for us) to keep our day job.” They are architects and consultants, not baristas, said Kobayashi.
They suspect Horwood’s Mall could be key to improving Whitehorse’s downtown, with its central location in the city, overlooking the river. When the waterfront is developed, the spot will be “one of the best intersections downtown,” said Kobayashi.
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