When Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. president Garry Umbrich was photographed by the News in 2012, he said he had big plans for the resort. Now seven years later, those plans are finally coming to fruition. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Flurry of construction expected at Takhini Hot Springs this summer

Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. president says more than $20 million to be poured in over next three years

More than $20 million will be invested into developing the resort at the Takhini Hot Springs over the next two to three years, with a flurry of construction expected to take place this summer, according to the company overseeing development in the area.

That’s more than double the amount that’s been spent on development over the past decade.

In an interview May 15, Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. president Garry Umbrich said that the sudden increase in activity is thanks to the fact that the Yukon government approved the company’s rezoning application last summer.

The land went from being zoned as conventional condominium to bare land condominium, Umbrich said, meaning his company could sell smaller parcels of land to developers, and that developers can buy the land they want before they start building on it.

“It’s a much more normal way of doing business,” Umbrich said, explaining that under the previous zoning, a developer would need to build a building, get it surveyed and only then create a separate title.

“So by getting bare land zoning, it has greatly increased investor confidence. That’s really the message, is, bare land development zoning at Takhini Hot Springs allows investors to come into Takhini Hot Springs and invest with much greater confidence because they’re able to buy the land for their project.”

Among the developers expected to begin construction this summer, according to a Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. press release on May 15, are Evergreen Construction, which will be constructing a “high-end lodge and spa services building” and North Star Agriculture, which will be building an aquaponics facility that will take advantage of the location’s geothermal properties.

Umbrich said his own development company, the Resort Development Group, also plans on making significant headway on its project — building a new pool facility. The facility will consist of four buildings; one is already up, and Umbrich said the walls and roofs for the other three should be up by the end of the summer, with the goal of having the facility open by Sept. 1, 2020. (The current pools will remain open until then.)

He added that he suspects the lodge and aquaponics building will be done by the following year.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline but, you know, everybody seems to be pretty serious and, I mean, once someone buys land, they’re not going to sit on it,” he said.

Several other projects, including a new campground and hostel as well as a handful of private homes, have already been completed at the Takhini Hot Springs in past years. About a half-dozen home are also nearing completion.

While the development company’s relationship with area residents hasn’t always been the smoothest — construction was previously put on hold after the Hot Springs Road Development Area Residents Association sued the Yukon government over a lack of proper consultation on the Hot Springs’ residential development plan — Umbrich said he’s hoping to hold meetings with residents at some point to discuss mutually-beneficial changes.

For example, he said, as structures go up, the company is turning its attention to firesmarting, figuring out a firefighting plan (according to Umbrich the nearest fire hall to home structures is a 20-minute drive away), and getting more reliable higher-capacity electrical and internet service.

There’s also the balancing act of bringing in tourists while ensuring locals also still feel welcome.

“Local business will always be big up here,” Umbrich said, noting that Yukoners currently make up about two-thirds of hot springs users. “ … So we’re not trying to develop anything that will scare away locals. If anything, we’re always looking at, ‘How do we build something that will be equally attractive for locals and tourists?’”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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