Gabriola Sounder News
Jane Reddington | Sounder Staff | Tuesday, June 7 2016

At the 9th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) Commercial Building Awards held on April 21, 2016, Gabriola’s own Chris Hock and Lana Pearson of Intrascape Developments won the award for best retail development in the north of Victoria retail sector, for Madrona Marketplace West.

Jane Reddington photo

“It was a surprise,” says Pearson, who adds it was the first award they’ve won. “It felt great. Kind of like the icing on the cake. It was hard to get through the remediation process and then the construction went so fast.”

The team began the soil remediation process around the old T&T gas station in 2009, and construction on phase two of the development started in 2014 with completion in June 2015.

Both Pearson and Hock grew up with parents who built houses for a living – Pearson in Kelowna and Hock on Salt Spring and in the Kootenays. Both studied urban geography at university and learned quickly that the three most important things in development are location, location, location.

Together they have transformed the entrance to Gabriola into a dynamic marketplace that is eye-catching, accessible and unique. All of it has been Pearson’s vision with Hock taking on the project management side of construction with help from Vince Lameo of Architrave Design Build. The two have lived on Gabriola since 1996, working then on the construction of houses but first meeting and working together in a restaurant in Vancouver in the early 1990s.

“We built houses during the day and worked at restaurants in Nanaimo at night,” says Hock. “Everything was so seasonal.”

In 2007, they saw the For Sale sign at the gas station that piqued their interest.

“We felt we needed more businesses to make a sustainable community where people could live and work here. Added services would also mean an increase in tourism,” says Pearson.

But they also wanted to buy both the lots that have become Madrona Marketplace East and West to have a side-by-side development.

Phase one, including Mad Rona’s, North Road Sports and Woodfire was completed in 2010.

“Developing and creating things is my passion,” says Hock, and Pearson easily finishes his sentences. “We’ve be able to get to know people and help them get off the ground. We’ve always chosen people with solid ideas. We want them to do well and they have to love what they’re doing.”

The idea with Island Home & Garden was to provide enough variety and alternatives for people to stay and buy on the island. The store is owned and operated by Nick and Robyn Hock (Chris’ brother and sister-in-law).

Chris said, “There is a third building to go in the final spot on the corner where the gas station used to be. It’s nice to be able to wait for the right tenant and time. We like continuity. It will be the same but a little different. All the buildings share the same look and design inside and out. Lana sees the design as construction develops.”

Of Wishbone Specialty Foods, Gifts and Home Decor, Pearson says, “It was a dream of mine to have a home and design store. My brother changed careers in Kelowna and wanted to live here, near the ocean,” says Pearson. “We wanted a take-away place that also served ice cream. When Marantha’s closed, beside Robert’s, we saw a niche in the market we could fill with providing fresh fish,” and the idea for a gourmet grocery store on Gabriola was born.

Hock says they are thankful for so many trades and subtrades and without that network they couldn’t have done anything. Hock stresses the importance of conducting business in a way that’s fair for everyone involved. Both seem happy and fulfilled by their work and are committed to staying on Gabriola.

“This development is very personal to us. It’s our name, our ideas and our businesses in it too. With this award we are being recognized by people who may not know us. It was judged on its own merit. We were far and away the smallest company there,” says Pearson. “It’s great exposure for Gabriola and puts us on the map. Hopefully it intrigues people to come over.”

Pearson and Hock are always available to help their staff at Mad Rona’s and their commitment has certainly contributed to the success of the coffee bar that is a place for the community to congregate and stop in for a pause in the day.

Now that the development portion of their work has slowed down, Pearson and Hock can take more time for themselves.  “We’re happy to be mowing our lawn and getting our house on track. We can have family barbecues.”