A concept of the retail village core on the Green Thumb property in north Nanaimo. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)

Green Thumb developer asking to extend north Nanaimo’s ‘urban node’

Proposal asks to extend existing retail with a focus on boutiques rather than large-format retail

The City of Nanaimo is being asked to make the Green Thumb property part of the urban node in the north end to allow for shops, services and high-density residential development.

An official community plan amendment application has been submitted to the city, asking for the 17.8-hectare property at 6261 Hammond Bay Rd. to be reclassified from ‘corridor’ to an ‘urban node.’

The application was submitted by Barefoot Planning and Design on behalf of Wilhelmina Group Limited Partnership and includes concepts that include “a medium-density residential neighbourhood with a boutique retail village core” in the south portion of the property and higher-density mixed use in the north portion.

Evan Peterson, principal at Barefoot, said planning at that kind of property presents an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come along every day.

“Probably the best part about it is the fact that you have clients that want to do something different and progressive and I would say appropriate for the site and the times,” Peterson said.

The application report says the plan for the neighbourhood would focus on “high-quality urban design, a comprehensive and connected green open space network, and rich landscaping throughout public and private spaces.”

Conceptual phasing shows development would happen starting with residential builds in the south portion of the site, followed by the retail village core portion. The concepts envision townhomes and three-to-six-storey multi-family residential development in the south portion of the property, with eight or more storeys along the old Island Highway. The vision for the north portion of the property is “mid- to high-rise residential with potential for mixed use and commercial (office) buildings, adaptable to the future needs and conditions of the area.”

The retail village core is envisioned for the middle of the property, with primary access from Uplands Drive. The application report notes that the Green Thumb village core concept within the Woodgrove urban node “extends the existing retail uses without directly competing,” with a focus on boutiques rather than large-format retail.

The property’s current corridor classification supports density of 50-150 units per hectare and two-to-six-storey buildings. Urban node designation would support density of 50-150-plus units with potential for high-rise development. Peterson said the plan is for 2,500 units with an upper range of 3,000.

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The concepts show three public parks on the property including a “large central park and trails.” The concepts also show Calinda Drive extending south and connecting with Enterprise Way and the old Island Highway. Peterson said a transportation assessment is being updated, as city staff asked that the developer alter the scope of that study.

The Dover Community Association isn’t active, but the city’s contact for the neighbourhood group, Bill Manners, said the Green Thumb concepts show a “concrete sea” that he thinks might be more appropriate for a larger metropolis.

“It’s not the type of plan that we want to see in Nanaimo, in my opinion…” he said. “I believe there will be some opposition.”

Peterson said the owners have had informal discussion with neighbours. He said concepts have been “workshopped” with city staff and there have been conversations about adjusting road plans, but “from a land-use perspective, so far we’ve had strong support at the staff level.”

He said the owners want the development to be a legacy of Green Thumb’s history as a “green jewel” in north Nanaimo.

“What they’re hoping to do is build and/or have a hand in the vast majority of what happens on that site…” he said. “The owners are fully invested in the site, both literally and figuratively and really want to make this about a high-quality, comprehensive development … [a] contemporary, modern, walkable village neighbourhood.”

A public information meeting will be held sometime in the fall. Peterson said he has been in communication with city staff to discuss a concurrent rezoning application, but no decision has been made.

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A concept for development of the Green Thumb property in north Nanaimo. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)

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