Ever wish you could go back in time and buy as much Vancouver real estate as you could in 2003? It may not be too late….to buy into what could be BC’s next real estate market set to boom: Kamloops. This week, Cory and Matt welcome Bryan Pilbeam, Vice President of Invictus Properties, to discuss everything Kamloops including Bryan’s latest commercial project set to regenerate downtown Kamloops, The Hive. COVID19 has made working remotely the norm and has allowed both employers and employees to relook at where they call home and cities like Kamloops are right ready to boom.
Learn what industries are thriving and what’s next for one of BC’s largest Okanagan towns. Plus, Bryan breaks down the difference between Kelowna and Kamloops and you would be surprised with how much they differ.
Enjoy the first of a four-part mini series highlighting some of BC’s best investment opportunities outside of the Lower Mainland.
Vancouver Real Estate News, Market Updates, Insider Tips, Stats, & Analysis
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in Saskatoon, grew up in Winnipeg and have lived in Kamloops for the last 10 years. I started in the hotel industry and had the opportunity to move to Whistler in the early 2000s. I then moved to Kamloops for a hotel opportunity and now commercial development. It’s been a great journey so far.
What excited you about Kamloops?
Before we moved here, I had visited once and had friends who lived here who spoke highly of it. But I didn’t see Kamloops as a great opportunity at first. Once I learned more about the opportunity out here, I was sold. But the clincher was the community. My boss, Peter, was telling me how easy it was to get anywhere in the city. It was important to me to not miss moments with my children. I’m able to drive over to their school in the middle of the day in just 5-10 minutes, watch my daughter score a few baskets at her game, and then head right back to work.
We have all of these amenities at our fingertips in Kamloops. We’re 45 minutes from Sun Peak or the Shuswap.
Kamloops is the tournament capital of Canada and there’s an amazing quality of facilities here. There’s a growing business district with a professional, yet unpretentious, business community. The sense of community is definitely here. Kamloops is reasonably affordable – there has been an uptick in residential and commercial prices, but just like anywhere else.
There is a lot of potential in Kamloops. We have a progressive university, chamber of commerce and city council. It’s a great climate and there is a lot of urban adventure right at our fingertips.
Your new project is The Hive by Invictus Properties. Can you tell us more about this project?
Kamloops hadn’t seen any Class A commercial development in over 20 years but our current council is much more focused on helping make this work for developers. The Hive is part of our vision to create an upscale business district with amenities in Kamloops, and it’s actually the third phase.
Phase one was our operation of an independent hotel. We redid the facade, and worked with KPMG to make part of that building their office home in Kamloops. On the east end of the building, we developed Centrepoint, a mediation and arbitration purpose-built facility. We also took the hotel we were operating to a new level. We became a Delta hotel by Marriott and following an $11 million renovation, we opened in June 2019.
That’s where The Hive comes in. The Hive is our first office building. We have four development lots in that area and The Hive will be the first. We’re building up amenities around the hotel to create that exciting business district.
Who are the tenants at The Hive?
We wanted to create a space leading companies would be attracted to. Our anchor tenant is Urban Systems. William Wright Commercial is another tenant, and a local law firm, McMillan Dubo Law Group. The Business Development Bank of Canada will also be in the building. Small businesses will fill some of the ground floor such as a boutique dentistry office and a financial services company. It’s a really exciting group.
We’ve been planning this for years to see if the market demand would be there. Once construction began, momentum really began to build. Our tenants wanted to be in the best facility available. There was a desire to come to Kamloops and once our facility began being built, it’s continued to attract others to the city.
Where are you in the sales process?
We expect to finish construction later this year and open in January 2022. We’re about 70% leased up. We still have some ground floor commercial units available, starting at 1100-1500 square feet, and some office space available on the second floor, around 2000-5000 square feet.
What does the next phase look like?
Covid definitely impacted our plans. There was a lot of uncertainty around office space. We’re very pleased that we haven’t lost any tenants through this time. A lot of the facilities we offer are what people are now looking for, like having bike storage and shower facilities. As this building is filling up and completing, we already have interest in a second building. That was always our plan and we’re pleased we can continue with it.
We originally planned to lease the second building but if some people want to purchase, we’ll definitely entertain that.
How did you weather the storm of covid?
I wear a few hats and as the general manager of the Delta Hotel, we were definitely impacted. We did close for about three months from March to June 2020. We had just come off a major renovation so this was our second closure. Last year was very difficult through the summer and winter. The financial impact was felt for sure. But it was really about the people.
Covid was devastating for the hotel industry and we’re not out of it yet. A lot of debt has been taken on by hotels around the world. I’m also the chair of the BC Hotel Association and know that most of the hotels in BC are independently owned by families. It has been devastating for them. Opening up a little bit this summer has caused some excitement.
We have major headwinds against us in Kamloops. We’ve been in the centre of the forest fires, which has been difficult and devastating for families. But we know there are better days ahead.
Aside from The Hive, are there other opportunities for commercial real estate investors in Kamloops?
We welcome more investment here in Kamloops. We’ve seen retail being reimagined here, like elsewhere in the world. We’re bullish on office space. There will be room throughout the city, not just downtown.
We like to say, “All roads lead to Kamloops.” It’s an intersection of many major roads and is a great place for logistics, which presents a lot of opportunities. We also have the major railways coming through here and our own airport. So the access and amenities are a real positive.
We’re also seeing a huge amount of residential being built and that needs to be supported by great commercial and office space. Our university has plans to grow and develop too. Downtown is also a huge untapped opportunity.
Kamloops is a bit restrictive in terms of geography because we have some rolling hills. But it’s a beautiful part of our province.
What growth areas have you seen due to covid?
We have the best partners in A&T Project Developers and they’ve told us how busy they have been. The construction industry has done extremely well, and so have the professional firms. Our tenants in the law firms and accounting firms have never been busier.
There’s an excitement about what is ahead for Kamloops and BC in general. A lot of business is happening. I think it’s an overall rising tide that is lifting all boats. There is a lot of opportunity for people who come to town.
People always mention Kelowna and Kamloops together. What are the differences? What makes Kamloops unique?
They’re two hours apart, have similar climates and both start with “K.” I love Kelowna and I’d absolutely live there. But Kelowna has taken a bigger boom in development and is well ahead of Kamloops. There’s traffic congestion in Kelowna that we don’t have in Kamloops. The price point for entry is much more appealing in Kamloops, which is a real opportunity.
It’s the sense of friendly community that makes me want to stay in Kamloops. There’s a quiet and humble pride people have in their city. We also have great retail and restaurants, and a very progressive university.
Where is Kamloops 5-10 years from now?
We’re very excited for the future of Kamloops. We’ve seen the population steadily grow and we know that momentum will continue. We’re excited to develop the future phases of The Hive which will allow more companies to come to Kamloops. There are also great restaurants and brewpubs just steps from The Hive.
There are great residential opportunities and lower price points for people to get in on in Kamloops. And the recreational opportunities will keep coming. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 20% growth in the next five years.
For people who are looking for the balance of life with a progressive business environment and reasonable cost of doing business with convenience everywhere, Kamloops is a good fit.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to invest in Kamloops?
Look at the big picture. We can all get hung up on the numbers and exact locations. But the world has changed. Ask how this opportunity fits with your family life and recreational goals. Look at opportunities holistically and take a step back to ensure there aren’t any blind spots.