food hub & Community workspace in New Denver, BC, Canada

Backstory

Silverton resident Danika Hammond first brought forward the idea of a cowork space in the Slocan Lake area. She saw a vibrant, well-equipped and flexible shared workspace as a way to ensure our villages would be sustainable communities where young families could build happy, healthy and productive lives into the future.

In partnership with the Village of Silverton, Danika was successful in procuring seed money from the Rural Economic Dividend Fund to engage a consulting firm with the community and begin to examine the specifics of how such a space could meet local needs. The Silverton General Store was examined as a potential location but it was clear that extensive renovations would be required.

In 2018 the Silverton Cowork Society was formed the pursue the goal of a renovating an existing building into a well-designed cowork facility. The non-profit society also adopted a “lean start-up” approach, opening the small-scale Lift Cowork space in a temporary location in the former United Church in Silverton.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, shared workspaces fell decidedly out of favour from a public health standpoint, and with the sale of the church, the cowork space put its formal operations on hold. Eventually it moved into the upper rear suite of the Silverton General Store building, providing access to groups and individuals on an as-needed basis.

Despite the trying circumstances, the Society remained busy behind the scenes. The awarding of a provincial grant (FLNRORD) in 2020 helped move the planning along and allowed The Lift to continue development to the extent that the pandemic allowed. This grant also triggered Danika Hammond’s resignation from the Board of Directors. This was necessary to avoid any possible conflict of interest from her work with the provincial government and her family’s ownership of the building under consideration for renovation.

The Society’s focus expanded in early 2021 when it was awarded substantial funding from the BC Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program to assist in renovations to create a long-term community workspace that would also function as a food centre with a full commercial kitchen. This expanded vision of the Society took root thanks to the support of the Healthy Community Society and a few key community members who had long been advocating for a food centre in the area.

Upon consultation with architects and the building inspector it was deemed that the fire-suppression retrofits that would be necessary in the Silverton General Store to bring it up to code for a commercial kitchen made the site impractical and unaffordable for housing the Society’s expanded vision.

The remainder of 2021 was spent securing an alternate location. Eventually the SCS was able to forge an agreement for the use of a beautiful heritage storefront in New Denver. With the legal agreements for the New Denver location finally secured in the spring of 2022, the cowork operations, beginning to emerge from the pandemic, were also moved to nearby temporary location in New Denver. And with the move came a new name to encompass the wider scope of the vision: Fireweed Hub.

Why fireweed? Fireweed is a pioneer. Its tiny seeds ride the wind like parachutes and begin new life where fate carries them. Whether in clear-cuts, on roadsides or old burns, fireweed plants itself and rises up steadfast and strong. But it rarely stands solo: a single fireweed plant builds a thriving community through spreading seeds and lateral root networks, and it readies the soil for succession towards a diverse and balanced ecosystem. In summer, its rose-to-violet-colored flowers bring beauty to stark landscapes, its nectar feeds pollinators and its edible petals can sweeten syrups and teas.

Our community workspace project will serve many of the same roles as fireweed, encouraging innovators and leaders, community-builders, the cross-pollination of ideas and expertise, beauty, strength and sustainable food production.