Tag Archives: Whistler Land Co. Developments

Expanding the Village

Read part one here.

In the late 1980s, the 58 acre Village North site was owned by the province and zoning was controlled by the RMOW. Whereas the original Village development had been mainly visitor driven, Village North was envisioned as supporting the community and bringing residents and visitors together. Community workshops were held through 1988 to determine what residents wanted to see in Village North before any rezoning was planned. According to then-Director of Planning Mike Vance, one ideas was to locate facilities such as the post office, medical centre, municipal hall, library, and museum in this area. At a speaker event in 2019, landscape architect Eldon Beck described his vision for such a plan: “This was intended to gradually involve the community in shopping, recreation, coming down to the town hall, coming to the library. So it’s a sequence of community interest activities merging then with the tourism population coming the other way, so the Northlands is where these communities all come together.”

Lot 29 in Village North is cleared by the Alldritt Development Group and Bradley Development Corporation, who planned to build 28 condo units by Lorimer Road. Whistler Question Collection, 1993.

The next step, after deciding on this plan, was to divide the entire site into parcels and zone each parcel in accordance with a master plan. Together, the RMOW, Beck, and Whistler Land Company Developments (WLC) developed a master plan even more detailed than that created for the first Village site, including not just the purpose of each parcel but also the individual elements of each building. According to Vance, this level of detail led to ” the largest single deposit in the land registry office’s history,” requiring most of a day to sign all of the documents involved. Council voted to approve the zoning bylaws for Village North on August 14, 1989 and by the end of 1990 WLC began selling development parcels. According to Mayor Drew Meredith, it took some time for Village North to get going and it remained “a weed patch” until developers such as Nat Bosa decided they wanted to be involved.

The construction of Marketplace in Village North. Whistler Question Collection, 1993.

Once it got going, however, work progressed quickly; Vance recalled a year when up to eleven cranes were up on the Village North site. Looking back in 1997, WLC President Jim Switzer said that the development of a master plan and the completed zoning provided stability and certainly for developers who knew exactly what was expected of them and for the RMOW who could plan for the future based on a clear picture of how development would proceed. In 1993, Mayor Ted Nebbeling cut the ribbon of the bridge over Village Gate Boulevard, officially connecting the Village Stroll through Village North. By 1997, of the development parcels were sold and the entire site was expected to be completed by the end of 1999.

Traffic lights are installed at the intersection of Village Gate and Northlands Boulevards. As the Village expanded, so did the traffic and roads. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

Not everything in Village North went entirely smoothly. Beck’s vision was to have a series of buildings descending with the grade of the Village Stroll, but provincial regulations and the fire department required flat and level platforms, leading to a design with more steps, ramps and raised walkways than Beck wanted and narrowing the pedestrian stroll. Some developers also didn’t want to stick to the master plan. In 2019 Jim Moodie, previously a development consultant for WLC, remembered that the developer of Marketplace tried to convince them that he could “give [them] more money for [their] land” if the developer was allowed to build a one-level strip mall with parking out front and no residential units on top. Not surprisingly, the developer was told to stick to the plan.

In 1997, Switzer said that the primary job of the WLC was to recover the province’s investment in Whistler. According to the calculations of Garry Watson (a Free Person of the Resort Municipality of Whistler), the province invested about $20 million in Whistler when they formed the WLC in 1983 and made around $50 million on the development of Village North. Or, as Meredith summed it up, “They got all their money back and then some” and Whistler got the extended Village we see today.

Selling Ideas of the Village

The Whistler Village is often thought of as a single entity, stretching from the gondolas at the base of Whistler Mountain to Marketplace on Lorimer Road, and for some including the Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. For those who visit Whistler for the first time, Village North is just as much a part of the Village as Village Square or Skiers Plaza. Village North, however, was built a whole decade after the development of the “original” Village had begun and, according to some stories from the late 1980s, the Village North of today was almost not built at all.

When Whistler, like the rest of Canada, was hit by a recession in the early 1980s, the Whistler Village was still in the early stages of development. While some buildings were completed and businesses were beginning to open, others had only poured their foundations. In 1983, the provincial government under Premier Bill Bennett established Whistler Land Co. Developments (WLC), a Crown corporation to take over the debts and liabilities of the Whistler Village Land Company. WLC also took over ownership of the Village North lands, which were eventually supposed to provide a return on investment for the province.

Eldon Beck and Drew Meredith speak at the event on the development of Whistler Village. Many stories were told, including a few featuring Kevin Murphy of BC Place Corporation and the development of Village North.

The economy slowly recovered and the province and the RMOW started negotiations in 1986 to return control and assets to the RMOW, including the development of Village North. By 1987 most of the Village sites had been completed, the conference centre and golf course were operating, Expo 86 had brought more international exposure to the area, Intrawest had bought Aspen’s interest in Blackcomb and was beginning to develop the Blackcomb Benchlands, and Canadian Pacific Hotels had announced the $80 million Chateau Whistler Resort. Whistler was expanding as a resort and becoming known as a destination.

The relationship between the WLC and the RMOW was not always harmonious. To some, it appeared that the WLC had been sent to “fix the problem” in Whistler and members of the WLC seemed dismissive of the work done and the future ideas for the Village. Over time Chester Johnson, the chair of the WLC board of directors, was persuaded of the merits of Whistler’s original plans for the Village, but Kevin Murphy of BC Place Corporation (another Crown corporations involved in the WLC and the ownership of the Village North lands) needed more convincing. In a speaker event in 2019, Drew Meredith (mayor of Whistler from 1986 to 1990) recalled that Murphy had decided the WLC was going to cut up Village North into residential lots and sell the lots to developers to build what they wanted.

The development of the Whistler Village in the 1970s and early 1980s required detailed plans, models and designs for each building and walkway before anything was built. This was almost not the case for Village North. Eldon Beck Collection

This horrified the RMOW and Meredith called up Lorne Borgal, then the president of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation, and asked to borrow Eldon Beck. At the time, Beck, who had provided much of the vision of the first Whistler Village development, was working for Whistler Mountain on Olympic Meadows plans that never materialized. As Meredith described it, “We injected Eldon into the room with Kevin Murphy and two hours later they came out arm in arm. And what you got is what we got.”

It’s not clear exactly what happened in that meeting, but Beck jokingly described the experience at the same 2019 event: “I just appealed to his good side and so we went into the room together and I talked to him, we sand the Canadian national anthem, hugged, and cried a little bit and came out and the deal was done.” According to Jim Moodie, it was incredibly fortunate for Whistler that Beck got along with Murphy, who was “one of the toughest guys [he] ever worked for.”

An agreement between the province and the RMOW was reached by August 1989 and a detailed plan for the Village North site had been created. Next week, we’ll look a bit more at the development of Village North to the sale of the last lot in 1997.

Developing Whistler’s Swing

In August 1983, Arnold Palmer opened the first golf course in Canada designed by him.  Palmer posed with buckets of golf balls and was photographed mid-swing surrounded by a crowd of people.  This was the official opening of the Whistler Golf Course as we know it today.

The Whistler Golf Course got its start in 1973, when Bob Bishop and Bernie Brown, the developers of Whistler Cay, began developing an executive-sized nine-hole course near Beaver Lane.  When completed just a few years later Whistler residents and visitors were able to play a round without driving to Squamish (the Squamish Valley course was the first golf course to open in the corridor in 1967).  A temporary pro shop at the new course carried a full range of rental clubs, balls, tees, gloves and other accessories, including caps emblazoned with the course crest: a beaver.  According to Bishop and Brown, the beavers were “the original course engineers who created this land.”

Work on the golf course expansion underway, as seen from the bluffs above.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

By 1977 the course had started to host small informal tournaments, both in summer and in winter.  For the course’s first official opening Bishop had planned to host a New Year’s Day tournament.  The plan was for golfers to wear either skis or snowshoes and use golf clubs to hit softballs towards garbage can targets.  Though we do not know if this particular tournament went ahead, there are reports of similar tournaments being played in 1975 to raise money for Whistler Search and Rescue.  Golfers were on skis, and hit red tennis balls into buckets sunk in the snow to make holes.

In 1977 Bishop and Brown announced their plans to expand the small nine-hole course to a full-size 18-hole course.  In order to develop Whistler Cay Heights, they were required to provide a community amenity and an 18-hole golf course was part of the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler’s community plan. That summer they began the preliminary clearing, draining, surveying and planning for the course, which was to be designed by Gordie McKay, the golf professional and superintendent in Squamish.  Because of a short construction season, they estimated it would be at least years before the full course would be finished.  In the meantime, the smaller course would be improved and kept open.

Chauffeur Chris Speedie and assistant Rod McLeod take the golf course refreshment buggy around the course during a tournament.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The expansion of the golf course became a key part in the plans for the development of a Town Centre and the transformation of Whistler into a year-round destination resort and was taken over by the Whistler Village Land Company (WVLC) by 1979.  Arnold Palmer chose to make the golf course the site of his first Canadian design, with Gordie McKay staying on as the Canadian consultant for the course.  The clubhouse and shop, along with a hockey rink and swimming pool, were to be incorporated into the planned Resort Centre (today the Whistler Conference Centre).  In September 1981 the golf course received its final inspection by Palmer and looked to be on track to open for the summer of 1982.

Arnold Palmer shows his fine follow through after sending a shot nearly 200 yards with a 9 iron. Palmer stresses proper rhythm rather than pure power to achieve those awesome shots. What a way to open a golf course! Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

This opening was delayed when Whistler, along with the rest of North America, was hit by a major recession in late 1981.  Real estate sales fell and interest rates climbed above 20%, leaving the WVLC with debts of almost $8 million, liabilities around $30 million, and land assets that nobody wanted to buy.  Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation, was formed in January 1983 to take over the liabilities and assets of the WVLC, including the golf course.

Under the Whistler Land Co., the full Whistler Golf Course was completed.  It was ready for Palmer’s opening round in August 1983.

This Week In Photos: June 14

This week in June has hosted a variety of events, including high school graduations, construction of summer attractions (and the Village), bicycle rodeos and picket lines.

1978

The Valleau Logging Camp Cookhouse near Mons Station stands deserted but not for long. Local residents plan to renovate the building and operate a food service for the valley this summer.

Pemberton Secondary Class of 1978. Not in order, the students are: Sherry Bilenduke, Hugh Blackstock, Kim Blundell, Helen Bush, Pat Bush, Lois Carson, Gary Decker, David Fairhurst, Carol Gilmore, Ken Gilmore, Laurie Hamula, Cathy Heine, Polly Jang, James Kernaghan, Norman LeBlanc, Anita Lever, Spencer Lowenberg, Edward Mah, Carola Marinus, Selma Miller, Bert Perkins, Ann Peterson, Doris Rollert, Kelly Ross, Philip Tourand, Conroy van der Lee, Peter Vogler, Celeste Watson, Michael Wetti, Michael Wilson, Joanne Wood.

The graduating students from the Garibaldi/Whistler area with their parents at the Pemberton Secondary Graduation on Friday.

Whistler students from Myrtle Philip School participated in a district-wide track meet held in Squamish.

1980

Whistler Land Company’s new office is barely occupied last week as the first town centre offices are occupied.

Work on the golf course as seen from the bluffs where the building lots are situated.

Sandra Pollock and Kathy Francis prepare the models and… KABOOM!…..

Attorney-General Alan Williams, MLA for West Vancouver-Howe Sound, discusses the Barrier report and the BC Government’s Order in Council that froze all land in Garibaldi with area residents.

Lift Co. employee seeds lower northside runs to help cut down erosion. Runs are almost completed at lower elevations.

All that remains of a ’77 Ford pickup after it left the road early Saturday morning.

1981

The first glulam being hoisted into place over the swimming pool area of the Resort Centre.

Al Raine (left) takes publishers from around the province on a tour of Whistler Town Centre.

Betty Chaba strums a tune while relaxing at Alta Lake in front of JB’s.

Garibaldi Building Supplies’ expanded new yard is ready for a busy summer season.

Some members of the Whistler Rotary Club.

1983

The most prudent bikers in the RCMP bicycle rodeo held Saturday, June 12 in Village Square (l to r) Simon Bellar, Samantha O’Keefe, Jody Rustad, Nicolas Busdon (overall winner). Melanie Busdon, Dave Den Duyf and Davey Blacklock who won the bicycle donated by Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

Municipal trail crews cut through the brush to make the final connection between the Alpine Meadows trail and the Meadow Park trail (under construction). Paving to complete the trail system will begin at the end of July.

These three answered this week’s question: Graeme Mounsey, Traveller, Sydney, Australia; Walter Therrien, Caretaker – Capilano Mobile Park, North Vancouver; Anne Crocker, Travel Counsellor – North Van Chamber of Commerce, West Vancouver.

If you attend the Sea Festival parade July 23, you’ll be able to enjoy the final results of this artist’s rendering for a Whistler float. The illustration will be used as a guide for constructing the float, estimated to cost $2,500.

1984

Kids, cars and parents turned out Saturday for a car wash and bake sale that netted over $200 for the school’s parent/teacher group. Police cars, a fire truck and a whole flotilla of private vehicles stopped for spring cleaning.

Emergency Services (last year called Tri-Services) overcame a mid-game spurt by the team from Citta to post a 17-12 victory on Monday in Whistler Beer League slo-pitch softball league action. Emergency Services now has a sparkling record of three wins and no losses.

Three (two pictured) locked-out truckers picketed The Grocery Store in the village Tuesday, preventing other union members from bringing supplies to the store. Picketing trucker Dayton MacKenzie said they are protesting their employer’s decision to use “scab” drivers for food deliveries. Employer Slade and Steward Ltd. has locked out Vancouver employees, and other employees in BC are on strike as of Tuesday. Grocery Store owner Geoff Power was unavailable for comment at press time.

An Alpine Paving crew was hard at work last Wednesday paving the mini golf course just behind L’Apres at the gondola. Whistler Mountain hopes to have the Tattersfield and Associates designed course ready for operation by Saturday, June 16, but promise to have it ready for play by the following weekend. Eighteen holes will cost players $2.

No one skis anymore at the former Rainbow Ski area just off Highway 99 between Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates but at one time it was the only place in Whistler open for night skiing. The ski jump was built by volunteers in the mid-1970s (though the date was recorded as mid-1970s in the Question accounts told to the Whistler Museum put the building of the ski jump earlier in the 1960s; the last competitions held on the ski jump occurred in the mid-1970s.).