The former post office on Argyle Street—renamed the Libberock Building by its new owners—will have its first tenant open for business as early as this summer. Papers were recently signed by the owners of the former Canada Post office on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Argyle Street and the Salvation Army to secure the lease. The organization will take over the entire main floor and provide all of its services under one roof.
The move comes after a review performed by the provincial Divisional Office of the Salvation Army.
“We were looking at putting all of the services under one roof for the efficiencies for the people who come through our doors and the efficiencies of the staff,” said Lt. Michelle Cale of the Port Alberni Salvation Army.
The floor space will house the thrift store, family services, food bank and church, with a congregation of approximately 25-30 people. Following the closure of the Salvation Army’s local recycling depot in August, the area is a significant reduction in square footage.
“We are going from a full city block to this, but we see it as a positive opportunity for growth,” Cale said. “We are excited to come back to the heart of the town and be closer to the people we provide services to. We hope to be a part of the boost to revitalize the downtown core.”
Libberock’s co-owner, Brent Manson, said the new tenant fits the vision he and partner Mike McKay have for the building. “The town has been good to our families and we wanted to invest in the uptown,” Manson said. “We have been seeing this side of town fading and we’re excited to have the Salvation Army here and the opportunity to continue to improve the area architecturally and socially. It will benefit a lot of people in the area.”
Renovations and clean-up have been ongoing on the exterior of the building and the interior renovations will continue in earnest in March. Although floor plans have yet to be confirmed, Cale said the vision is to operate the church on the Argyle Street side.
“It will be a beacon to the downtown core where everyone can feel welcome to shop, receive services and worship,” Cale said. “It is a way to add vibrancy to life in Port Alberni.”
Manson said the investment has contributed to a complete repurposing of the building to a fully functioning service.
“People can feel proud to be here in a nice bright space,” he said. “I have always liked the multicolour communities where everyone mingles with all walks of life, a community that welcomes everyone right into its heart and adds to the ambience of the community.”
Although the upper floor of the building is still vacant, Manson said the partners are in conversation with another service provider.
“We would like to push forward and have others on board to contribute to the whole vision of what the building is all about,” Manson said.
Mayor Mike Ruttan said he has noticed the activity across the street from City Hall.
“We really welcome any economic activity in the area, especially that of local investors,” Ruttan said. “We welcome the Salvation Army as a good neighbour.”
Ruttan said he is interested to see what will happen with the Redford Street property that the Salvation Army will be vacating. It is currently listed for sale for $439,000.