City considering selling downtown property to printing company

Three lots on Brunswick Street had been designated for affordable housing

Three city-owned lots along Brunswick Street in Penticton have long been earmarked for affordable housing, but now the city is looking at selling part of the property for a commercial development.

James Parker, owner of Okanagan Label and Print, approached Penticton city council recently to ask the city to sell part of the land at 284 and 296 Brunswick St. in order for him to expand his business.

Okanagan Label and Print is a growing company, supporting the wine and spirits industry, and owner James Parker told council they need to find a place to build an expanded plant in order to keep up with demand.

“Five years ago, we located in the city of Penticton to be in the centre of the wine community in B.C.,” said Parker, adding that they brought in a special press to print bottle labels.

“After installing this machine, we’ve been growing at an alarming rate, year after year.”

The presses are extremely large and rare, with only 75 in existence around the world, Parker said.

He has a new one on the way, which will take about 11 months to construct and install.

“This machine we are going to be purchasing will be 100 feet long and 53,000 pounds,” said Parker.

“Over the last year, I have been searching to try and find a lot or a building big enough, and long enough to house both of these machines and we have been totally unable to find anything in the city of Penticton.”

The parcels at Brunswick Street, however, would be large enough for a building housing both presses.

Barker said his company currently employs 11 people, and operates 24 hours a day, but over the next few months, he will be forced to make decisions on the future of the company, though he would prefer to remain in Penticton.

Parker told council he would be amenable to adding an affordable housing component to the building, but that would have to take place up to three years in the future, after the operation was up and running.

“If the time frame allowed, I would be interested in taking on the project above my half,” said Parker.

Council voted to put the land up for sale, but unlike the nine properties along Eckhardt Avenue that were sold for the failed hockey dormitory project, decided to follow a public process for the sale of the land.

“This is the first step in engaging the public, we will have to go to a public process that will allow anyone who has an idea similar to yours to come forward and it has to be a fair competition,” said Mayor Garry Litke.

Council voted six to one, with Coun. John Vassilaki voting against, to begin the process for selling the land,  with the conditions that the development of the land be required to accommodate affordable housing units about a commercial use on the main floor and that the funds from the sale of the land be used for a future affordable housing project.