By Ella Matte, contributor
Victoria city council unanimously approved Thursday night a proposal to build a floating sauna in the Inner Harbour after a long public hearing that ranged from supporters of the project to one person calling it a “monstrosity.”
Havn Sauna’s plan is to moor a converted barge at Ship Point that would include a variety of hot and cold pools, small sauna enclosures and special-event space on the landscaped surface deck.
Havn says it wants to bring a year-round economic boost to an underutilized part of the waterfront and its facility would allow locals and visitors to engage, relax and socialize. Its current plans envision a charcoal-grey exterior on the barge with a cedar deck, landscaped with greenery and trees.
The approximately 44-metre-long barge would be a re-purposed vessel and the proposal says 90 per cent of its materials would be recycled.
Nicholas Joel Van Buren, CEO of HAVN Experiences Ltd., said the company requested rezoning for the project because he wanted the boat to stay tied to the dock with visitors on board while the current bylaws only allowed activities involving boats and moorage boats to untie from the dock with visitors on board. They asked that the city expand its permitted usage to include recreational facilities.
In Van Buren’s presentation, he said they have, “support from over 300 plus community members and over 20 businesses.
“(The project) supports Victoria’s 30-year-plan, providing direction for growth and change in the community,” he said. One of the main reasons they think the sauna will create growth is it will “encourage a mix of active shoreline uses. Including public recreation, small craft launching and moorage, marine restaurant, pubs and float homes.”
Some speakers at the public hearing were worried about the look of the project.
“The size of the thing will impede the look of the downtown skyline,” said Paul Burke, who lives nearby overlooking the harbour.
“The other day I saw this monstrosity of a thing sitting there and we thought it might be a prop for a movie scene of ‘Mad Max’ or something like that. So, we walked over and looked and I was absolutely appalled at the aesthetics of that thing. So the design aesthetic is my primary rejection to the whole thing. I really think that the height of the thing and the size of the thing will impede the look of the downtown skyline from the harbour.”
Van Buren said the look will improve.
“Just give it a minute, the plants are coming, the landscapes are coming, the art on the side is coming, hang in there.”