It’s been a little over three years since the Town of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus First Nation embarked on a public engagement process for a waterfront area plan.
Since that time, elements of the plan have started to take shape, and the town has been successful in securing millions of dollars in grant funding for work on its waterfront.
The Ladysmith waterfront has been a busy area since the summer of 2019, with more work anticipated in the months and years to come. The VI Free Daily has compiled a guide to understanding what’s happening on an urban Island shoreline ripe for development.
Work in progress
In 2018, the Town of Ladysmith received $1.8 million in federal gas tax funding to assist in renovations on the machine shop.
The upgrade work began in the summer of 2019. Foundation work on the building turned up unexpected challenges, and required the town to seek additional grant funding to continue the project.
Seismic work and roofing upgrades have been completed. The town will seek grant funding for the machine shop rehabilitation Phase 2 for $3,114,611 through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. If successful, that money will go toward structural, electrical, mechanical, exterior boardwalk and infrastructure upgrades.
These upgrades are required to make the building habitable for tenants.
Uplands site investigation
The Town of Ladysmith and contractor Golder Associates Ltd. have started site investigation work to remediate historical contamination in the uplands area of the waterfront. This work is an early step in implementing the waterfront area plan.
Work involved digging, drilling, and sampling of the soil and ground water in locations along the waterfront. Workers were present around the machine shop and the Ladysmith Community Marina’s lower parking lot.
Following completion of the site investigation, the town intends to seek provincial approval for a plan to remediate the uplands.
Future development of the uplands area is contingent on provincial approval of the remediation plan.
Arts and heritage hub
In July 2020, the town received $3.3 million in grant funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s rural and northern communities program to begin work on the arts and heritage hub.
The town has also applied for further funding from Island Coastal Economic Trust.
The arts and heritage hub refers to the area around the machine shop and the land to the north of the machine shop.
A concept plan for the hub — developed at a 2018 design workshop in consultation with community stakeholders — states that it should primarily be for the arts, and maintaining the heritage of the area. The project will also demonstrate the partnership between the Town of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus First Nation.
On September 30, 2020, the town put out a request for proposals from qualified architecture firms to begin design work on the arts hub. The successful project proponent is expected to begin design work this month and complete design and costing work no later than February 2021.
During the design process, the proponent will be required to consult the project stakeholders including Stz’uminus First Nation, the Ladysmith Arts Council, the Ladysmith Maritime Society and the Ladysmith and District Historical Society.
Once design work is completed, the Town will issue a tender for construction services.
The project will add the following components to the arts and heritage hub:
- A 4,500-square foot artist studio;
- A 1,500-square foot café and gift shop;
- A ‘plinth’ boardwalk along the edge of Oyster Bay Drive running the full length of the hub (approximately 200 metres);
- A reconfigured parking along the east edge of Oyster Bay Drive;
- A new parking lot on the north side of the hub; and
- Accompanying landscaping and site furnishings intended to create open spaces for outdoor art displays, interactive exhibits, performances, special events and casual seating.
The total budget for this phase of construction is $4.3 million. Proposed works, such as the café and gift shop are not eligible for grant funding, and will be paid for entirely by the town.
A concept map included in the waterfront area plan shows 12 points of future development. Many of the points do not have existing funding attached to them, nor do they have projected completion dates.
Points 1 and 2 deal with Fisherman’s Wharf. They propose an expanded marine serviced centre and commercial fishing wharf. The existing public boat launch, washrooms and boat trailer parking areas will be maintained.
Point 3 illustrates an expanded marina landing area at the Ladysmith Community Marina. The proposal includes new spaces for a paddling centre, an expanded drop-off and turnaround area, and additional parking.
Point 4 is the Stz’uminus First Nation Cultural Centre — an integral piece of the future waterfront. Design of the centre will be led by Stz’uminus First Nation and will showcase Stz’uminus culture and artists. One of the goals of the waterfront plan is to restore the presence of Stz’uminus First Nation “on and near” the water.
Point 5 is a waterfront walkway that extends from Fisherman’s Wharf to Slack Point, and further south to Transfer Beach Park.
Point 6 is a proposal for Slack Point Park. The proposal includes environmental improvements to the area, and proposes using the area for events such as concerts and festivals. The existing Transfer Beach gravel parking lot will be maintained.
Point 7 demonstrates ‘live-work-learn’ spaces — mixed-use buildings with ground level commercial, institutional, light industrial, or entrepreneurial spaces with residential uses above.
Point 8 is a filled foreshore and access road that would connect Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ladysmith Community Marina.
Point 9 is the arts and heritage hub.
Point 10 is a pedestrian overpass over the Trans-Canada highway to Gatacre street. This would connect the waterfront and downtown.
Point 11 is a proposed boutique hotel. Point 12 is a proposed residential development. The plan states that the housing would be a mix of two-to-three-storey townhomes and five-to-six-storey apartments. Residential developments in the area will assist in covering the costs of waterfront plan priorities.
A project decades in the making
Various attempts at a plan for the waterfront and uplands areas of Ladysmith have been made over the years. The first rumblings of a plan began in 1986.
Although some work has just begun on parts of the waterfront plan, there will be years of future investment and development in the Ladysmith waterfront to bring the plan to fruition.
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