City council says the downtown industrial waterfront is ready for development, but we don’t think the community is ready to make any decisions.
The events centre referendum and the planning leading up to it leaves Nanaimo with a few outcomes. The ‘no’ vote is some indication of what citizens didn’t want to see there. It also showed that voters, when asked, made a very different choice than the one put forward by city council.
Now, both those who wanted a multiplex and those who didn’t are asking the same question: if not an events centre, then what?
Coun. Jim Kipp noted last week that in advancing the sports and events centre project, the city did a lot of groundwork at the property including archaeological and geotechnical reports, site servicing plans and transportation considerations. In his view, it’s “ready for development.”
In the two weeks since the referendum, we’ve heard a lot of ideas for that piece of land. Citizens want to see everything from commercial port expansion and highrises to a walkway, an ocean discovery centre or even a theme park. We’ve loved listening to this discussion and hope it continues.
We know there are people who have been involved in the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative who have put forward a vision that includes residential and retail development, an arts and culture focus and a transit hub. The group’s work remains relevant and should continue to be referenced.
One factor to keep in mind is that some of these decisions aren’t made by city council or by citizens. Through mechanisms like zoning, permitting and licensing and through public-private partnerships, a city obviously has a lot of say in how it develops. But there are limitations to what it can build itself on public land and the kinds of projects it can initiate. A lot of what we’d like to see on the waterfront depends on whether there are private interests who see a business case in making those things happen.
Some of these decisions are out of our hands, but at the same time, a lot of the decisions will be ours to make. The downtown waterfront is ready, whenever we are.