The City of Campbell River has approved the proposal from the Waterfront Task Force to develop the controversial 3.5-acre site on downtown’s waterfront into an 87,000 square foot facility and public park space – at least in principal.
At Monday’s meeting, council heard from representatives of the task force who outlined the public consultation process and their findings, as well as an economic impact study from Vancouver-based firm VannStruth Consulting Group.
The proposed facility, in its current form, would see the relocation of the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, along with other salmon-based organizations reorganized into what’s being called the Salmon Centre of Excellence, as well as the Discovery Passage Aquarium moving into a much larger space, a conference hall and meeting rooms area, an anchor-tenant restaurant, as well as room for many local businesses, artists and retail vendors to move into what’s being referred to as a “business incubator space” or “village mews.”
But according to the representatives for the task force, one of the main priorities they heard from the community was that the majority of the area be kept as public outdoor space, so 60 per cent of the land will be transformed into a plaza and park area with pedestrian and cycling trails, leading along the waterfront for the public to enjoy.
After the presentation by the task force, Coun. Larry Samson expressed some concerns about the proposal, including what he saw as a lack of parking.
The current proposal would see 110 spaces of underground parking below the facility, which Samson says probably isn’t enough.
Specifics such as the exact number and location of parking spaces, however, would be worked out during the formal design stage, Samson was told, but there is also the possibility that an area alongside Highway 19A could be also be used as an additional area for parking.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield also expressed concerns that a nice shiny new space for small local businesses to move into and set up shop may pull from other areas of the city – some of which are already struggling to find commercial tenants.
“We did a survey not that long ago with a consultant talking about available commercial space and found out that we’re overzoned,” Cornfield said. “We have an oversupply of commercial, so by creating a very enticing and very nice spot, will we be taking business away from existing locations?”
Steven Cohlmeyer, the lead architect on the project, said that’s not something they have seen in the past with developments within urban areas. Negative economic impacts for small business are much more likely to come in the form of major shopping centres setting up shop at the edge of town, not developments within downtown cores.
“Perimeter shopping centres – the Costco’s at the edge of town – certainly suck businesses dry in the downtown. The biggest destroyer of the small-town communities tend to be the very large, big-box world that gets attached,” he said.
Amanda Raleigh, representing the task force, agreed with Cohlmeyer.
“This commercial space will offer more of a business incubator facility where new businesses and local businesses could be able, financially, to start a storefront, whereas going into some of our existing currently-available storefronts isn’t economically going to work for them at this point. This would be an incubator space where they could start their storefront business and then graduate out into some of our larger, more available commercial space (out in the community).”
“There may be some relocation from other areas,” Mayor Andy Adams admitted, “but this is an attraction and a sense of place, which then brings more people downtown and creates better vitality and economic spinoff.”
In the end, council voted to approve the proposal in principal and that the project would be included in their considerations during the upcoming budgeting process “to move the project forward” into phase one.
Phase one of the project will be the detailed design of the facility and the construction of the pedestrian and bicycling trail along the waterfront while council looks for funding partners to get the rest of the approximately $30-million project underway in earnest.
“Phase one is just the waterfront walkway around the perimiter of the property on the Quadra side,” said Mayor Adams. “The motion is to do the detailed design of that and put some seed money in to potentially partner with other community groups to see that built sooner rather than later. The second part is to adopt the conceptual plan – which may change as we move through into detailed design, but you cannot go to other levels of government and pitch until you have that detailed design as part of your submission package.
“We need to have the design shovel-ready, money-ready, design-ready for other levels of government to come on board, or other corporations or agencies that may be interested.”