Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The case for moving ahead now on
our South Downtown Waterfront Lands

The case for making a start now on the development of our downtown waterfront lands. The recent referendum has shown broad public support for the careful, sensitive development of this site, and we should take advantage of that goodwill to put things in motion. You could say that we have already made a start with the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative’s Vision and Guiding Principles.  
Any proposal, this one included, should recognize and honour the complexities and realities of the site. They are:
1. Adherence to the Downtown Waterfront Initiative’s Vision and Guiding Principles.
2. The Treaty and land claims rights of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
3. The access rights of Seaspan and the Island Corridor Foundation.
4. The role the private sector, the market, will have to play in its future.
However each and all of these are eventually satisfied the site will require infrastructure. We should act now to begin work on this infrastructure. It needn’t (shouldn’t) wait for every use and design “i" to be dotted.  
Creation of a magnificent public plaza on the waterfront should proceed immediately. A serviced short block urban street grid should be built and building lots subdivided. These would allow for investors large and small, local and national or off-shore to bring fresh ideas and capital to the site all within the guidelines established by the SDWI. City owned serviced lots could be set aside for favourable long term leases to non-profits and co-ops for non-market and social housing. Others set aside to be ceded to the Snuneymuxw as a portion, along with the Federal Government, of Treaty and land claims settlements.
There is huge value latent in the site which belongs to people of Nanaimo. Right now it’s a large underused site the value of which is mostly in its potential. We should create that value by doing what only the City can do: develop its infrastructure. Revenues would be generated as portions were carefully and strategically sold. This would go a long way in paying for the improvements. It's also essential the foot ferry, if it ever comes to be, docks on these waterfront lands in close proximity to other uses, not on the remote Port Authority's cruise ship pier. 
Take a look at the work done by a landscape architecture from like  PWL Partnership Landscape Architects in Vancouver. PWL principal Derek Lee has worked here as a consultant to Parks and Rec. (Picture: New West Pier Park)

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