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Cowichan Green Community blossoming in new downtown Station
A heart shaped by little stones lovingly decorates a derelict flower bed resurrected by Alisia Taylor and Katie Gateley at The Station downtown.
The pair of greenthumbs found bottles, dope needles, bedding and old beer glasses in grubby grounds surrounding Duncan's former Phoenix Station Motor Inn.
Now the Phoenix is the beehive headquarters of Cowichan Green Community toasting its 10th birthday, and a raft of Earth Day events.
Spade work by Taylor and Gateley symbolized the Phoenix's rebirth as an eco-showcase planted by CGC. Grants and loans helped swap the old liquor store into Cycle Therapy's new store. Twenty upstairs rooms were revamped into apartments now home to dependable renters — with more names on a waiting list as Station's rear fire escape reaches code.
"Our building's been completely rezoned so they're full residential units for one-year leases," said CGC spokeswoman Judy Stafford. "We're calling it affordable housing. There's been a huge demand; I get six calls a day sometimes."
The residents are helping CGC pay its mortgage on the failing Phoenix building it took over in June.
"We have university students, young adults, some folks on disability, and working professionals — we feel like we're creating a bit of community for them.
"The energy of the building has completely changed," she said of Station sitting where the seedy Commercial Hotel burned in 1990.
Its former drab rooms for transients now fetch $635 monthly, including utilities, internet and laundry. Stafford was also confident a tenant will soon lease 2,600 square feet in Station's former pub, after a deal fizzled with the Community Farm Store.
"We think it would be a really good space for a retail operation or office space," said Stafford.
Ask Cycle Therapy owners David and Sandra Beggs. They shifted their store to spacious Station from the Stone Block to better serve customers buying pedal and electric bikes, plus custom-made rides.
"It's a fantastic fit," Sandra said of their emissions-free transportation and CGC's green mandate.
Stafford also describing CGC's edible forest of berry, nut and fruit trees — plus terracing, with an outdoor board room, beside their building, while awaiting warm weather to repaint Station in a city hall-approved palette.
"They'll be primary colours of bright red, bright yellow and orange; each section will be a different colour," she said of suggestions by contractor David Coulson, and a team of artists.
Stafford raved about the city's guidance on permits, plus fiscal help from Van City in the zero-waste project that's employed tons of tradespeople.
"It's all coming together. Our goal is to make this the most sustainable building in Duncan."
The Station's grand-opening date was pending.
Earth Day Celebration by Cowichan Green Community and the CVRD, April 26.
Charles Hoey Park:
11 a.m. Beverley McKeen; noon, Masimba Marimba; 1 p.m., King and Co.; 2 p.m., Jane's Way.
11 a.m. Young Filmmakers' Project, student eco-film showcase;
1 p.m. Reviving Biodiversity Panel Discussion, with Patrick Lucey, Ray Demarchi (large mammal connections), Pete Arcese (conservation values, land-use planning), Jean Atkinson (Cowichan Lake shoreline restoration), Dave Polster (bioengineering techniques, Cowichan), Scott Akenhead (fish studies)