What is that new building under construction on Queens Way? | Squamish Chief

What is that new building under construction on Queens Way?

Squamish's Leon Lebeniste aiming to create design hub

A new building under construction on Queens Way will, according to its owner, become a hub of world-class design.

The roughly 27,000-square-foot structure at 38935 Queens Way will house Squamish woodworking and furniture company Leon Lebeniste on its main floor with a publicly accessible space, complete with a café, on the second floor, according to company founder Jon Hewitt.

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"The intention for this place is that it's a lighthouse of design and manufacturing excellence," he said. "If you're bombing up and down the Sea to Sky Highway, it's a 'you must stop and see what's happening at this place' type of thing.

"You'll be able to look in to the windows on the upper level … and seeing these amazing things being made."

Hewitt hopes to draw leading firms in fields such as engineering and architecture to the upper space.

The building will not only provide visitors with gorgeous views of the Tantalus Range from an upper-level deck but will itself be a thing of beauty. The building's exterior will consist of cross-laminated wood, which is described by the Engineered Wood Association as "a large-scale, prefabricated, solid engineered wood panel." In addition to being attractive, Hewitt said there is also an environmental impetus for choosing wood.

He said the carbon footprint of building a wood structure is less impactful than building with primarily with steel," he said.

Timber is grown and processed in British Columbia, he added.

"For us, it was kind of a cool fit because we're big into design and high-end architectural buildings and wood product manufacturing, so for us, the building is consistent with the type of work that we do."

Hewitt said the project is in its early days of construction, and the company hopes to have it complete for the second quarter next year.

"Right now our schedule says March," he said. "There are obviously lots of variables, so we don't want to count our chickens before they're hatched."

Hewitt said that the new building will be approximately three times the size of Leon Lebeniste's current space on Mid Way, so the business is "keen" to move in as quickly as possible. The expansion will allow the company to commit to a greater number of projects, according to Hewitt.

"Over the next three to five years, it increases our capacity to do the same type of work that we do, which is [that] we work on these high-end residential projects primarily," he said. "We'll grow our business to hire two or three teams that do those types of projects."

As well, the additional space will allow Leon Lebeniste the ability to produce wood panels for other businesses as opposed to only for itself.

"We just don't have the physical space to completely leverage the tools that we have currently," he said. "That increased amount of space will afford us an ability to do a little more production work on top of the more custom-tailored work that we do as well."

While COVID-19 has had an impact on myriad fields, Hewitt noted that the pandemic has had only a minimal impact on the construction of the new building, adding that the contractors have handled potential disruptions and problems well.

In general, Hewitt said the company has been able to operate safely as well.

"In our projects in the building industry, when COVID first hit, it was obviously understanding, 'How do we deal with these new set of circumstances?'" he said. "Our clients have done a really great job making our projects being set up responsibly."

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