Phoenix Inn bought by Cowichan Green Community

Nora Arajs (left), Doug Marsh, Rick Henry and Pat Amos help open Cowichan Green Community
Nora Arajs (left), Doug Marsh, Rick Henry and Pat Amos help open Cowichan Green Community's Phoenix Edible Garden Dec. 21 at CGC's headquarters at downtown's Phoenix Station Motor Inn. Arajs designed this garden and a shade version; Marsh and Henry built the cedar arbour (above), and Amos built a cob bench.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Downtown's landmark Phoenix Inn is rising again, this time under Cowichan Green Community's ownership.

CGC spokeswoman Judy Stafford's board says in a release their non-profit, green group's undisclosed offer to purchase the Phoenix Station Motor Inn was accepted by owners Edalca Ventures in December.

Subject-to clauses include financing and building inspections.

Now CGC folks want public ideas about making the Phoenix a green sparkplug for core growth and sustainability.

A  community planning forum to brainstorm future uses of the inn's land and buildings, at 360 Duncan St., is set for Jan. 12, 9 a.m. to noon in the Phoenix Pub.

"The synergies are really profound," Stafford said of the neighbourhood bragging the Duncan Garage and Community Farm Store, Charles Hoey Park, Cowichan Valley Musuem, and the Mercury Theatre.

"It feels like we can do a lot with this (Phoenix) space that's underutilized. The dream vision is to take a conventional building and add solar and many other things. We want people to share their ideas and get involved."

CGC offices are on the Phoenix's main floor inside from where the CGC christened its edible and shade gardens under a cedar arbour last month.

CGC also seeks ground-floor tenants sharing the vision of a more sustainable city, say CGC brass.

They're targeting a major February fundraising campaign supporting CGC's purchase, and potential initiatives in the 22,000-square-foot facility.

"We can make this a demonstration site. There's a hillside behind here where we want to put gardens," Stafford said of the slope between the Phoenix and the Garage.

"We could potentially have rooftop gardens — we're looking at making this area more vibrant and safer by changing the energy and having community associated because lots of seniors don't feel safe walking by here."

Meanwhile, it is business as usual for Phoenix pub and liquor store patrons, and hotel residents.

Stafford expected the pub to close and perhaps be converted into commercial or retail space.

"The hotel runs as usual until the end of June, then we're hoping our (purchase) conditions will be met.

"The plan is for the (20-room) upstairs to remain as affordable housing as longer-term rentals; the majority is rented out now."

CGC did not buy the Phoenix's liquor store and its licence. She foresaw that operation moving elsewhere eventually.

Board chairwoman Bev Suderman explained the decision to buy the struggling hotel came from CGC's wish to see the site's potential realized "for us, and for the sustainability movement."

"We are looking forward to strengthening community and demonstrating socially innovative ideas, particularly around urban agriculture, environmental well-being, and financial sustainability for CGC," she notes.

The Phoenix occupies the site of the former Commercial Hotel that burned to the ground in 1990.

The Commercial emerged as a seedy hotel and bar from the historic Alderlea Hotel, an originally swanky place twinned by the nearby Quamichan and Tzouhalem hotels, both now demolished.

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