The Northern Lites Motel has a new owner in the form of Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce president Rob Warburton.
Warburton, who was in talks with the then-owner of the motel for several months, officially took over the business on July 4.
He said he acquired the motel as another step in “revitalizing downtown.”
“I’ve been a big advocate, both personally and to the chamber there, for revitalizing downtown,” he said. “I worked a lot with the city on the zoning to get higher density, and, really, just like my entire business is about using what we have.
“Then this opportunity came up and it seemed like a great way to put those things into into practice, trying to find a new light for a second life for downtown property. I thought that was pretty interesting,” he said.
Warburton is also addressing some of the housing crunch that Yellowknife is facing while also attempting to assist construction crews working on ongoing projects around the city. In its current form, the motel has 26 suites in total, but it remains unclear at this time if that number will change after his renovation work is completed.
“So we got the pool, we got AVENs happening, we have Giant Mines wrapping up here,” he said. “So the next couple years, we got quite a large construction projects, and those projects usually involve a lot of southern crews.
“So they’ve got to stay somewhere, and traditionally they would either stay in motels on short trips, or they would rent apartments if they’re here for long periods of time,” he added. “But we have the crunch on rental units in housing, so the usual options are not there for renting apartments.
“For longer contracts, the motels are financially challenging for them and increase the project costs and also the hotels are pretty maxed out. Their focus is tourism, which is what we want to focus on in the city. So yeah, there’s a need here for housing for construction crews.”
Following his purchase of the property, Warburton quickly began renovations to the motel.
“Right now, I’m kind of going through it and fixing it up,” he said. “It was a little tired, so it’s making sure everything’s functioning and kind of a basic cleanup in there, painting, etc.
“Then, kind of longer term, like a year, year and a half or so, (the plan) is to move it to co-living or like a shared living kind of a focus,” he continued. “So you’re gonna have those rooms and suites and the common areas into like common amenity space.”
With regards to the time frame for completing cleaning and repairs, Warburton is aiming for the end of October or sometime in November.
Currently, there are still residents living in the Northern Lites Motel, but Warburton isn’t looking to push anybody out immediately to make room for crews or other residents.
“There’s no need for them to vacate right away,” he said.
Though Warburton is also a co-founder for CloudWorks, he confirmed his acquiring of the Northern Lites Motel is not a CloudWorks-based project.
“It’s through my partner Sarah and I,” he said.
Instead, the work will be done under Warburton Holdings Ltd, but “will be rebranded once the motel is ready to launch as a co-living space.”