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Yukon gov't sells empty Whitehorse lot for $1, promising new development

A rendering of a proposed development at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in downtown Whitehorse. (Kobayashi+Zedda Architects/Yukon government - image credit)
A rendering of a proposed development at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in downtown Whitehorse. (Kobayashi+Zedda Architects/Yukon government - image credit)

The Yukon government has sold a vacant property in downtown Whitehorse that's long been eyed for residential development.

The lot at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street was sold to a consortium of local developers for one dollar. That's because the buyer is now liable for the site — a former tank farm that sits near the base of the escarpment. It needs soil remediation, and protection from potential landslides.

"If we had not sold the land for private development, the potential land development costs for the government was in the range of $12 to $14 million," said John Streicker, minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources.

Streicker said the full costs of developing the land will now be the responsibility of West End Development, the consortium that has agreed to buy it.

West End Development is a partnership made up of Ta'an Kwäch'än Council's Da Daghay Development Corporation, Northern Vision Development, Kobayashi + Zedda Architects and Ketza Construction.

The company intends to develop the lot for large-scale residential and commercial use and has called the project Kèjän + Rogers.

'I think about a lot of kids laughing again, walking in that area, utilizing the land,' said Tiffany Eckert-Maret of West End Development. (Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC)

The company said it would include multiple buildings of mostly residential units, along with things such as daycares or other local businesses on the lower floors. Early plans call for up to 300 units at the site.

"I think about a lot of kids laughing again, walking in that area, utilizing the land. I see opportunities for elders to walk down ... to the river," said Tiffany Eckert-Mare, a spokesperson for West End Development.

Construction could start as early as this summer, according to the Yukon government.

In a statement, Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai said he was "pleased that First Nations developers and local companies will benefit from the opportunity to develop this land and that Yukoners will have more opportunities for affordable housing in Whitehorse's downtown core."

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai on an empty lot af Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in downtown Whitehorse, in 2021.
Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai on an empty lot af Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in downtown Whitehorse, in 2021.

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai speaks to reporters on the lot at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in 2021. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

The lot has been considered for high-density housing since the Yukon Party was last in power back in 2015, but nothing has been done there in that time.

The current Liberal government was ready to take development proposals for the site in 2022. But landslides from the clay cliffs above the property that spring put the safety of the site in question.

As a condition of the sale, West End Development will have to build a berm, or natural barrier, at the base of the cliffs that border the lot to protect it from future landslides. It will also have to remove existing, dilapidated structures from the property and adhere to a permit that lays out safe development under remaining contamination.