Eleven organizations leasing Yukon government signature heritage sites in the TC Richards and White Pass buildings in downtown Whitehorse have each been sent a letter that the Yukon NDP describes as “pretty concerning.”
A copy of the letter, dated Feb. 1, was provided to the News by Brittany Cross, a department of Highways and Public Works spokesperson, upon request on April 17. The letter is attributed to Andrea Finner, a manager in the Highways and Public Works department.
According to the letter, recipients’ leases will not be renewed at the end of term, but will remain month-to-month.
The letter cites a new strategy being developed for the use of Yukon government signature heritage buildings.
“The strategy aims to ensure that signature buildings are leased in a manner which prioritizes tenants who meet criteria that is compatible with the heritage values and character defining elements of the buildings,” reads the letter.
“The proposed strategy involves publicly advertised expressions of interest for the opportunity to occupy the signature buildings and long-term leases will be offered to those who are selected. When the departments are ready to move forward with the strategy, the process on how to submit an expression of interest will be clearly communicated to all our current tenants and a minimum of six months’ notice will be given for any change in occupancy.”
Cross confirmed her department, as well as the Tourism and Culture department, are working on a strategy and criteria that will be used to select tenants and a call for applications from potential tenants is expected to be issued within six months.
“We understand that this new approach has created some questions from existing tenants in these buildings and we’re committed to keeping existing tenants informed and providing them with an opportunity to apply for leases,” Cross said by email.
The TC Richards building is a large storey-and-a-half log building located on the corner of Steele Street and Third Avenue, while the two-storey White Pass building sits at Front and Main Streets on the Yukon River waterfront.
Yukon NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre, Lane Tredger, raised questions about the letter in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on March 27.
Tredger asked for assurances to current tenants that they will be considered for long-term tenancy.
Highways and Public Works Minister Nils Clarke explained his department is responsible for administering leases and entering into extensions of leases.
“The goals of the strategy are to ensure that where government space in signature buildings is rented or leased to third parties, it is done in a manner that enhances the economic, social and cultural well-being of Yukon citizens and that it follows a fair and transparent process. We hope that the strategy is finalized and approved within the next several months. Updates will be communicated to all tenants,” he said.
Clarke suggested the strategy could “take a while” to be approved and, at that point, tenants will be able submit a proposal to remain in their space.
“I would be speculating as to why their proposal might not be accepted,” he said.
Yukon NDP Leader, Kate White, brought up the letters again on April 11. She asked the minister what to expect of the strategy, when to expect it and what does this mean for leaseholders.
Tourism and Culture Minister John Streicker responded.
“What we are looking to do is to just make sure that the way in which we utilize these heritage resources has some public accountability against it,” he said.
White asked the minister how it will be determined whether tenants are a proper fit for buildings.
“It’s not necessarily about moving folks out; it’s about having accountability and process around how our heritage resources are utilized,” he said.
Streicker indicated criteria will be created and put out.
“We are looking to make sure that if there were to be a change — and we’re not certain there is to be a change — it would be enough time for the current tenants to be able to find a new location,” he said.
“I think once those criteria are developed and they are shared, then everyone will be able to see how the fit looks for organizations that currently are there or could be there.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com