Lena Sin, Vancouver Province- January 26, 2005
It made international headlines in September -- a pristine northern B.C. town for sale: Kitsault, yours for $7 million.
It was the kind of advertising money couldn't buy -- and it worked.
The headline caught the eye of U.S.-based property developer Krishnan Suthanthiran, who was in Halifax when he heard the ghost town was for sale, complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, the Maple Leaf pub and 302 homes.
Less than four months later, Kitsault was sold for an undisclosed amount to the newly formed Kitsault Resort Ltd., with Suthanthiran as the principal director.
"It's a wonderful community just waiting for people," said Shawn Weingast, a director with Kitsault Resort Ltd.
"It's right out of a movie studio with nice homes, a bunch of wonderful apartments with a shopping centre, a recreation centre, an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts, library."
Both Weingast and Suthanthiran are based in Springfield, Va. Suthanthiran was out of town and unavailable for comment.
The company plans to spend the rest of the winter and spring working with the government and First Nations to see what direction Kitsault should take.
So far, the options include turning the town into a commercial enterprise for a university or a movie studio, a recreational resort, single-family home sales or a spa destination. Or some combination of them all.
"This is something very new to me, that a developer only sees once in a lifetime," said Weingast.
Located 139 kilometres north of Prince Rupert on Alice Arm, the sale of Kitsault included 130 hectares of land, 2.4 km of oceanfront, 92 homes, 210 apartments, a shopping mall, recreation centre, a gym, library, curling rink and paved roads.
The former mining town was built in the late 1970s, but when molybdenum prices plunged in 1982, the Climax mine was closed. Its last residents moved out in 1983, with a sign on the edge of town asking the last person leaving Kitsault to "please turn out the lights."
For two decades Kitsault was empty, save for a caretaker, his wife, and the foxes and bears that wander the streets.
"It kinda gives you a funny feeling in a way because you'll drive down the street, it's all paved, and all of a sudden you'll see a tricycle sitting there. And you'll go into the house and you'll see the brown shag carpet, flowered wallpaper and the kitchen table with the chrome legs," said Rudy Nielsen, owner of the Niho Land and Cattle Co., which marketed the sale. "But the thing that gets me the most is the 25-year-old RCA Victor, brown television set sitting there."
Kitsault first went on the market in 1992, with an asking price of $23.5 million, but there was little interest. With the asking price considerably knocked down this time around, Nielsen received 10 offers.