First Nation stake grows in Northern Vision

Northern Vision Development always planned to work in Yukon. But the original intention wasn't to stay this long. "When we started, we said that we would probably only last a certain period of time."

Northern Vision Development always planned to work in Yukon. But the original intention wasn’t to stay this long.

“When we started, we said that we would probably only last a certain period of time,” said Richard Thompson, president and CEO. “The reason that you set up a limited partnership is because you’re basically going in, buying some real estate, you’re going to develop it, you’re going to sell it and it’s going to have a limited life span. But what happened was when we got into the Yukon, we realized early on that there were substantial opportunities there for an operating company.

“Very early in the day, we decided that we were going to want to extend the life of our partnership.”

This meant Northern Vision had to become more like a company, with an indefinite lifetime.

Efforts to make changes started shortly after the partnership formed in 2004, and last week, the Whitehorse-based group of hotel proprietors and property developers took the last necessary step.

Partners needed an opportunity to cash out. And the group needed to open up to new partners looking to join.

The change means Northern Vision went from being made up largely of Calgary-based businessmen working in Whitehorse, to a majority ownership of Yukoners working in their own backyards.

“More than 50 per cent of our ownership is now Yukon-based,” said Thompson. “To us, that’s a significant milestone. We’ve always felt welcome and a part of the Yukon and Whitehorse communities, but now we are also majority owned by Yukoners.

“We’re in it for the long term in the Yukon.”

The group’s capital has grown by five per cent, while unitholders have dropped from about 150 to 100.

“We are now owned by people who have bigger stakes in the company, but we have less of them overall,” he said.

This also translated into Yukon First Nations representing about 35 per cent of the partnership.

The Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s trust and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council have joined other aboriginal groups like the Yukon Indian Development Corporation in the partnership. The Tr’ondek Hwech’in’s trust now stands as the largest, single unitholder.

These changes mean Northern Vision is better equipped to grow in the territory, said Thompson.

“We wanted to put ourselves in a position where we could raise money as we need it for opportunities,” he said. “Under our past limited-partnership structure, it was difficult for us to raise new money but now it’s much easier. We’ve made the modifications to our company to allow us to raise money so that we can pursue all the opportunities that are in front of us.”

And considering the group’s new “strategic” partners, more and more opportunities may pop up.

Northern Vision has always been focused on Whitehorse, and that won’t change, said Thompson. But early talks have started about possible developments in Dawson City and Carcross, he said.

For the immediate future, however, the company will keep plugging away at running the High Country and Gold Rush inns in Whitehorse, as well as building up a “mixed-use community on the waterfront.”

The group’s River’s Reach condos near Earl’s restaurant at Spook Creek were finished in June and the store-bottomed, condo-topped construction beside Boston Pizza, called Waterfront Station, is also nearly finished and already 70 per cent leased or sold.

Those two developments only represent about 30 to 40 per cent of Northern Vision’s land in that area. Thompson can’t announce yet what else they have planned for that land, nor could he confirm what restaurant is planning to move into the Waterfront Station, along with other businesses.

“We’re really proud with what we’ve done with River’s Reach and Waterfront Station,” he said. “We think they’re both really nice buildings and that they both really add something to Whitehorse, and we think that we can continue to do that.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at