As the saying goes: build it, and they will come.
The story takes place 480 kilometers east of Vancouver, B.C., in south Okanagan. Known for its vineyards and spectacular natural beauty and Aboriginal culture, the Okanagan people have lived in this region for thousands of years. The Penticton Indian Band is the largest reserve in B.C. with close to 47,000 acres and 1,100 members. Another 35,000 people live in the neighbouring town, the City of Penticton, a growing hub in the residential development area for this region.
Armed with a vision—and equipped with a plan—to create opportunities for its people and the communities around them, the Penticton Indian Band Development Corporation (PIBDC), is seeing the fruits of years of infrastructure development and negotiations with the province and federal government.
Since its incorporation in 2007, the PIBDC has seen incremental successes through its three limited partnerships: Westhills Aggregate LP, Coyote Cruises LP and Sn’pink’tn Forestry LP. Success is measured in fiduciary terms, but also, and equally, in successful job creation and training opportunities for the Penticton Indian Band. The execution of the PIBDC’s community comprehensive plan has allowed exponential growth for their community.
A bridge in both the literal and physical sense, the completion of the Satikw Crossing Bridge in 2015 joined Penticton Indian Band Reserve lands—and economies— to the City of Penticton, previously separated by the Okanagan River. The bridge is the result of 20 years of negotiations with the Provincial and Federal government. Meaning “river crossing” in the Okanagan Sylix language, the importance of the bridge cannot be overstated: For the first time, access for the first time to more than 140 acres (60 hectares) of prime development land adjacent to Highway 97 was open for business.
These lands of Satikw Crossing, connected to Highway 97, has “dramatic” value for commercial and employment related purposes, says Chris Scott, Business Advisor to PIBDC. “Until we built the bridge we couldn’t have infrastructure,” says Scott. “The Satikw Crossing is vital for connecting the economies of Penticton Indian Band with the City of Penticton, and by association, with those of the greater South Okanagan.”
Skaha Hills Residential Development
2013 was a landmark year for the PIBCD. After investing $7-million in infrastructure, the stage has been set to support both the future of a $250-million, 600-unit residential community surrounding 320 acres of prime developable land below Skaha Hills. “This in essence provides an economic base for the region that could be the main catalyst for economic growth in the South Okanagan,” says Scott. In total, the Band envisions more than $100 million in capital projects taking place on its lands within the next 10 years.
“When we had the opening of Skaha Hills, we were more than thrilled to see our first phase 47 homes sold out that first summer,” says Scott. To date, there has been two phases built to date with 47 homes in each phase sold out. In addition the 2nd phase has eight multi vistas consisting of 12 units per multi for a total of 96 units. There is also a 10,000 case winery built and operational in Phase 1 called Play Winery. Phase 3 will begin in the spring or summer of 2017, and consists of 38 duplexes, 60 homes and two multis.
Skaha Hills is gaining attention not only for its beautiful setting, but record-setting energy efficiency. “In conjunction with Greyback Developments, PIBDC chose an ICF platform (Integrated Concrete Foundation) to provide maximum thermal efficiency,” says Scott. Structurally insulated panel (SIP) construction and high-efficiency natural gas furnaces, condensing storage water heaters, ENERGY STAR® appliances and LED lighting in every home also contributes to “a home that is very well insulated, sips energy to heat the home and hence respects the desire to minimize our carbon footprint.”
Building techniques at Skaha Hills have generated lower utility bills for homeowners, and a reduced impact on the environment. Not to mention, bragging rights of owning a home in one of Canada’s most energy efficient housing developments and two-time recipient of the FortisBC Efficiency in Action Award.
Stewardship and Direction
As a band member and Economic Business Development Officer for PIBDC, Lesley Gabriel says opening parts of the Penticton India Reserve land for development was a long time coming. “With community members, the Chief and Councils’ vision, and by using our Community Comprehensive Plan as a guide, we are very proud of the fact that we have come into our own and decided we needed to do this,” says Gabriel. “It not only put us in the limelight, it illustrates that our community is ready and prepared for business. We want to move forward and strengthen our relationship with city, provincial and federal government. We have to do this in order to help our people with their needs and wants.”