Only a hand full of years ago the majority of us looked at the Princeton Towers as a forgotten dream, thinking they could never be the once bustling commodity ever again. But we were quickly proven wrong when the purchase was made on Sept. 21st, 2022 with 3 Million dollars dedicated to the rejuvenation of the facility.
Progress quickly made way as in the following October the green light was lit by the Renovation Superintendant who after assessing the building formed a proper crew suitable for the needs to be properly met.
It has been a full year now since that moment as 80 suites have been fully restored to ‘state of the art’ quality. As renovating began from the ninth floor moving downward they are currently in the end stages of the final first floor.
The demand for the building came nearly instantaneous as renting began as soon as their first room and the needed necessities were ready only two months after start day; Dec 5.
According to Thompson City Mayor; Colleen Smook, she says that with the rapid growth of the community, “Thompson has basically a zero percent vacancy. It’s hard to get an apartment” which as the need grew, these once empty boarded up towers gave pressing need to the counsel during it’s 3 year period of abandonment.
Much of the weight of the these towers rest on General Manager; Miss Hilda Fitzner, where she manages not only the tenantts, but lots of the construction and building process. And in the past four years leading up this operation, she says that she feels like she’s “Gradually shaking the bad history” as she put it. Where as the towers continue to modernize, people see first hand the elaborate changes that have, and currently are being made.
The biggest undertaking currently is the instalment of brand new elevators, which out of the two side by side one is predicted to be functional before this year has a chance to conclude.
On Nov. 1st a large crane reached above the towers finishing the fresh coat of external paint along all four sides and ensuring all outdoor construction is complete before the weather changes too drastically.
Being located on the South East part of town, reputation of uneasy mischief and drunkard activity proceeded in that back area of town, causing greater vandalism to the property after the closure in 2019. People referred to the towers as an “Eye sore”, “Garbage Dump”, “Too far gone”. But statistics went through the roof within the first 9 months of the premises purchase as the City wide Fire calls dropped by 83%. RCMP as well as Emergency dropped by 47%.
“I like to think that with my efforts in the last four years that the police and the fire department are freed up to actually look after things that are potentially life threatening” Stated Fitzner, “I just want to do my piece here”.
With being a permanent resident in the Nickel Belt community, Fitzner grew up with a love for the community of Thompson and saw the potential in the towers that not many others did, she said she saw this as a place people could “Call home” again.
Her love for Thompson has been one of her greatest drives as it’s paved way for intimate connections with her tenants, treating them like extended family rather then investments.
Fitzner expressed how much she understands being without a place to stay and trusts her tenants with the space their given. “I want the tenants to feel that this is their home! To feel ownership. This is our home, let’s take care of it”.
She said that a lot of the tenants even come to her office for friendly advice or wisdom, looking to her as a sort of counsellor in trauma, financial, or even marriage.
Even the kids refer to her as their “Cree Grandmother”, always knowing they’ll be treated with a candy of some sort when seeing her. And because of the bond and trust she’s built up Fitzner said none of the kids in the building have done any damages such as graffiti. She’s watched many of these kids grow into young teens and maintained that mutual respect.
But with faithfully maintaining such a trust there is also disadvantages to be made right. Fitzner mentioned moments she’s had to let tenants who were causing potential danger go.
“I can’t save one bad tenant to have 10 of them miserable around them” Fitzner affirmed “I am one hundred percent behind ‘the tenants first’, so I need my tenants to trust me that they’re gonna be safe here”. This being said, Fitzner’s efforts in keeping a safe environment as well as limiting enemies have been well balanced as the reviews on the Princeton Towers have remained highly positive.
It’s exciting to see such an establishment flourish the entire community, reaching beyond the very facility, but creating a beacon of hope for us all. Bringing an area that was deemed condemned back to life. For those interested in more information you can visit their website at: www.princetontowersthompson.com
~Matthias J. Johnson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Thompson Citizen. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.