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Plans unveiled for NGO hub in downtown Whitehorse

The owners of Lumel Studios plan to build an four-storey building on their lot
Mel Baker-Johnson and Luann Baker-Johnson, owners of Lumel Studios, announced a vision for a four-story NGO Hub on their land in downtown Whitehorse on April 22. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

A new office hub for NGOs in the territory is one step closer to reality after Volunteer Bénévoles Yukon signed a memorandum of understanding with the owners of Lumel Studios on April 22 to build a four-storey office building in downtown Whitehorse.

The owners of Lumel, Luann Baker-Johnson and Mel Baker-Johnson, are planning to build an 11,665-square-foot office building with space for non-government organizations (NGOs) on their lot beside the Lumel Studios glass blowing studio and Gather cafe.

The Hub has been planned for years through a coalition of Yukon NGOs who formed a committee steered by the Volunteer Bénévoles Yukon. The non-profits involved, including the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition and Volunteer Yukon, are looking for a dedicated space together, said Sue Edelman, the co-chair of the Hub Steering Committee.

Mel Baker-Johnson points out a rooftop feature on architectural drawings for a planned 11,000-square-foot office building in downtown Whitehorse. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

“We want to offer efficient services to the people of the Yukon, whether that’s in the heritage sector or it’s talking about seniors, it’s important that we use limited resources carefully. That’s part of what the hub is going to be, but it’s more than that. It’s when you get a bunch of people together that are creative, and really know their fields, they work together, and they create totally different things,” she said.

“Everybody is working, and really thinking about what can be done, you know, and trying to determine what that vision looks like. And then it’ll be up to Lu to make it a reality. That’s what she does,” she said.

Construction is still in the planning phase for the financials of the project but the owners hope construction could begin in early 2022, with opening aimed for 2023 or 2024.

“There’s always been this potential over here, but we never knew exactly what it should be,” said Luann, referring to the other half of the land where Lumel Studios and the recently opened Gather Cafe & Taphouse currently stand.

She said she had originally been in talks with the architect about building a restaurant on the lot when the need for an NGO Hub came up.

Taken with the idea, Luann said they are now envisioning a larger building with office space for NGOs, a lower-floor restaurant, entrepreneurial space for small retailers, rooftop viewing deck, solar panels, greenhouse space and “nooks and crannies.”

“We’re really, really thinking about beauty and comfort. So that when you walk into your place of work, or you walk in there for appointments, you just want to be there,” she said.

The project is still in the financial planning phase, but Luann said the goal is to have the building self-funded but keep rents as low as possible for the NGOs.

“The building has to support itself, but within that, because it’s an NGO building, we are going to keep the leasing as low as we possibly can. It’s a community effort, we need to support that building. We don’t need to make money off of that building,” she said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at