CYFN tires of old building

The Yukon, Canada and Canadian Tire flags flapping atop the forlorn Fourth Avenue store will be replaced with Council of Yukon First Nations…

The Yukon, Canada and Canadian Tire flags flapping atop the forlorn Fourth Avenue store will be replaced with Council of Yukon First Nations standards if all goes according to plans.

Optimistic, $11-million plans.

“In a nutshell, CYFN is planning to buy the abandoned, or former, Canadian Tire building,” said Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) communications co-ordinator Peter Lesniak.

The May 3rd announcement was the first time the CYFN’s 30-odd staff learned about a solid plan to move from its current digs, which must be vacated by September 2008.

“It’s quite exciting for the staff,” said human resources manager Brenda Jackson. “It’s like woo-hoo! Maybe we won’t be out with no roof over our head within the year.”

Jackson’s not familiar with the finer points of the deal, but isn’t worried about it.

“We have trust in our leadership and I don’t think they would stray us too far,” said Jackson.

But both grand chief Andy Carvill and specific financial details were missing from the announcement made at Thursday’s afternoon news conference.

CYFN has signed an exclusive purchase agreement with the Canadian Tire Company for the buildings and a one-hectare lot at 4201 Fourth Avenue.

It has until the end of August this year to close the deal.

Canadian Tire’s asking price is $4.5 million, but CYFN officials won’t disclose the agreed-upon price.

“I think that that is something chief Carvill can answer if he wants to,” said project officer Paul Choquette.

But Carvill failed to attend the news conference.

He was expected to call in from Vancouver. Later, Lesniak said Carvill was touring correctional facilities in BC and Alberta.

The money will be found and the deal will be finalized, said Carvill from Vancouver on Friday morning.

He wouldn’t announce a purchase price.

CYFN expects the building’s renovations, which must be completed before August 2008, to cost $6.5 million.

Plans include giving the outside shell a facelift and re-branding.

The building, built in two stages in 1973 and 1989, also needs improvements to its insulation and electrical, water and heating systems to meet “greener” standards.

As a major part of the future-income assets listed in their business plan, CYFN is counting on luring “credible tenants” to lease about 2,800 square metres of office space of the building’s total footprint of 4,800 square metres, said Choquette.

Beyond seeking “conventional financing,” CYFN will try to tap all levels of government.

Choquette couldn’t confirm though whether it would seek partnerships with the various First Nations.

Partnerships are “always an option,” said Carvill.

“I’m optimistic that the monies will be in place when we need it to complete the deal,” said Carvill.

“At this point in time, we’re not willing to say exactly where (the money is) going to come from, but essentially the financial model is such that it works. It works in large part because we have sufficient revenue from the leasable space,” he concluded.

The operation will cost less to run than the $9 per square foot that Canadian Tire was spending, said Choquette.

Jackson can’t wait to move.

The federal government-owned wood mega structure at 11 Nisutlin Drive in Riverdale is on its last legs.

“We’ve had lots of problems, especially this year. We’ve had water leaking down through light fixtures,” said Jackson.

“It’s a little bit difficult for staff when you have all these pots and pans and buckets around and on the stairways.”

Also the old building was difficult to heat, and cool.

Staff had to come to work dressed in layers, ready to greet any type of weather inside, she said.

The old building’s history is also sketchy.

“It was a former hostel for the Indian Reservation School, and a lot of people to this day still have problems coming to this building,” said Lesniak.

Caterpillars and dump trucks could visit the site as soon as September 2008. The owners are expected to demolish the 1960’s era school dormitory facilities and hand over the land to Kwanlin Dun First Nation as per a land claims agreement.

CYFN wanted the Canadian Tire store, said Choquette.

“It was most desirable because of its location, its proximity to other government facilities, proximity to services. It had sufficient surface area for parking to accommodate the kind of space we are anticipating building.”

Also, it was running out of time.

“It will be a symbol. Something people can rally around,” said Lesniak.

CYFN will be giving preference to First Nations members for renting the planned office spaces and for undertaking renovations contracts.

What happens if the renovations are not complete by the move-out deadline of August 2008?

“We will be looking for a large tent,” joked Choquette.