If a re-zoning application is approved, Nanaimo could be looking at the first sign of a long-awaited redevelopment of the old Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel site and surrounding properties.
Oakwood Park Estates submitted an application July 28 for re-zoning of the properties from medium-density residential to a new comprehensive development zone to create a mixed-use residential, retail and hotel development, according to city records.
The Howard Johnson hotel closed in 2018 and the site has seen previous proposals for redevelopment, including a conference centre and multiplex sport facility.
The Millstone River project proposed in the application documents prepared by Victoria-based D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism will encompass 2.9 hectares containing five properties and includes a 120-room hotel with a restaurant and conference facilities, 698 residential units, 6,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and a park.
The new housing will “complete the Mill Street neighbourhood” and connect it through to Comox Road and Wallace Street, the proposal noted.
The hotel would consist of a single 16-storey high-rise tower, intended to be a “gateway landmark” at the Terminal Avenue and Comox Street intersection. Most of the project’s other buildings in the proposal will be five- and six-storey mid-rise structures, including townhouses, and comparable in density to buildings already on Mill and Prideaux streets, according to the application.
Re-zoning is the initial step in a process that could take several months or more and would involve approval by city staff, council and public engagement.
“Typically we look at about eight to 12 months for a rezoning approval of this scale. It is a pretty substantial scale and large site,” said Lainya Rowett, city manager of current planning.
The process, she said, normally includes a staff review and consultation with other departments in the city and external agencies such as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to get feedback and input.
“Through that referral process, we might need some additional information from the applicant, so you can certainly appreciate there may be some back and forth to resolve what the proposed zoning will be for the site and the proposed use and density and just understanding the feasibility of the proposed use and density,” Rowett said.
She described the site as being a gateway into the downtown that has captured the community’s interest for a number of years.
“It’s exciting to see this kind of project and, not only this kind of project, but this kind of interest the heart of our city and virtually on the doorstep of our waterfront,” she said.