The community said goodbye to a fixture of the downtown core Monday as crews took down the old SuperValu building to make way for a four-storey apartment complex.

Out with the old, in with…

SuperValu building comes down, making way for new rental apartments

“A little piece of me died today,” Lindsay Ellis says through her tears after watching the old SuperValu building in Tyee Plaza come down this week.

Her father, Gordon Ellis, was the assistant manager of the grocery store for 32 years. He died of leukemia shortly before the store shuttered its doors in December of 2009.

“I grew up in that store,” she says. “All my problems went to that store. I was 17 years old when I went there to tell my dad I was pregnant.”

And those memories – both difficult and wonderful – all came flooding back as she watched the crews do their work on Monday, systematically ripping the building into rubble from one end to the other.

“The staff there was like one big family,” she says, using the example of how employees with young children would often have them running around the store as they waited for their parents to get off work, playing with each other in the aisles and bringing smiles to the faces of shoppers and employees alike.

The building had been sitting vacant and deteriorating for more than a half-decade, with speculation rampant as to what it would become.

Some proposed a recreation centre of some kind.

There was talk of it becoming a flea market. Others thought more downtown shopping would be a nice addition to the core of our town – possibly with some rental housing or condominiums upstairs.

The speculation ended this week, however, when it was announced that the building was being demolished to make way for a new 47-unit, four-storey apartment block, according to project manager Ben Kunz.

“Hopefully it will pep up the downtown a bit,” he says as he watches the machinery tear away the walls of the old building from behind the fence and caution tape. “We need more people downtown. It’s pretty lonely down here at night.”

The new apartment complex will be rental units only, Kunz says, and it’s only the first phase of what they hope will be a grouping of apartment complexes surrounding the plaza.

“We want to build another 80 over there by Spirit Square,” he says, pointing across the parking lot towards the Art Gallery and Visitor Centre.

And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill apartments, either, Kunz says.

“They’ll be pretty fancy,” Kunz says.

“They’ll all have a washer/dryer in each unit, all stainless steel appliances, laminate floors, nine-foot ceilings … it’s a lot more comfortable living than in some of these older apartments,” Kunz says, adding that’s what the rental market “wants” right now, based on other buildings the developer – Molmar Group, based in Vancouver – has been building all over Vancouver Island recently.

“I think that’s what people are wanting these days,” Kunz says. “We just built one in Nanaimo, and we rented out the thing in, like, two months, and we’re talking about 110 units in that one.”

There’s currently no timeline on the incoming apartment complex project, as there is still some red tape to sort out with the City of Campbell River, but Kunz says once they get the word, they’ll get to work getting it up so people can start moving in as soon as possible.

Campbell River social media channels lit up with reaction once people started posting photos and videos of the building coming down, and those reactions fell into two basic categories: “It’s about time,” and, “Sad to see it go.”

“Good riddance! Out with the old and in with the new,” one poster proclaimed cheerily.

Others added that they hoped even more would soon be done to revitalize the core of our community and remove other downtown “eyesores.”

Some, however, echoed Ellis’ sadness in seeing the building torn down, saying it’s always hard when a piece of our town’s history – especially something that reminds us of happy times in our lives – is taken away.

There’s some small consolation for Ellis, however.

She says she has a friend on the demolition crew who is saving her a piece of the building that she plans to have made into a bench or table of some kind.

Perhaps a memorial for her father.