Members of the Uchucklesaht Tribe have moved into their new cultural and administration building on Argyle Street, The Thunderbird, as construction nears completion.
“The building is 99 per cent complete, said Uchucklesaht CAO Scott Coulson. “The main part that isn’t completed is the sidewalks and the city is behind that. That’s why it still kind of looks like a construction zone.”
Construction of the four-storey building began in early 2015 after the Uchucklesaht received a development permit from the City of Port Alberni.
Originally buying the old Somass Hotel in July 2014, the Uchucklesaht planned to renovate the building at an estimated cost of $6 million. However, after months of working on the old hotel, it was determined that the building couldn’t be restored and was therefor demolished. Constructing a new building increased the project cost to about $9 million.
“I love being in here,” Coulson said. “It’s a great location…being down by the waterfront is really beautiful.”
In addition to serving as an administrative office for Uchucklesaht staff, the Thunderbird offers 32 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
They’re about two-thirds full, we’re being quite picky,” Coulson said.
“All the one bedrooms are gone. Basically we have two-bedroom units left and everybody that’s in them just loves being here.”
To highlight culture and heritage, the exterior of the building is designed with colours taken from the Uchucklesaht Tribe emblem—green, red, orange, yellow, black and white.
Also adding to the element of traditions, the Thunderbird comes equipped with a carving studio on the ground floor off Kingsway Avenue for artists to use as a space to create.
“We want artists to come in and use it but it will have to be arranged,” Coulson said. “We are hiring an artist first to do a totem to get some activity in there.”
(Story continues below)
Three of the walls in the 14-foot-ceiling room are glass so folks can look inside and watch the artists at work.
Boardrooms in the building are available for rent from Monday to Friday and offer large tables made of old-growth cedar from Uchucklesaht treaty settlement lands.
“They’re spectacular,” Coulson said.
A restaurant will be added to the building’s amenities once a company is chosen to occupy the space.
“The restaurant space is empty right now. We’re probably going to be going back out to our request for proposal again,” Coulson said. “I think it will be a really sought after space.”
Adding to the exterior landscape, a green space is being constructed in the upper lot above the building on Argyle. The space will serve as a park area and be used as a parking lot for Thunderbird staff and residents.