Lifestyle

COASTAL LIVING: Property purchase paves way for float home development

Scott Valliere, owner of Valliere Construction, surveys the former Nanaimo Shipyards site while standing on the facility’s 1,000 tonne way. Valliere purchased the property in early February and plans to create a floating community on Newcastle Channel. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Scott Valliere, owner of Valliere Construction, surveys the former Nanaimo Shipyards site while standing on the facility’s 1,000 tonne way. Valliere purchased the property in early February and plans to create a floating community on Newcastle Channel.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

The sale of an industrial waterfront property has buoyed prospects for the beginnings of Nanaimo’s first community of floating homes.

Nanaimo Shipyards, at 1040 Stewart Ave. was purchased by Scott Valliere, owner of Valliere Construction on Feb. 7.

Valliere plans to build floating homes in the shipyard facility and float them to a new dock system – also to be constructed onsite – in Newcastle Channel.

“It’s already zoned for it,” Valliere said. “It’s W2 zoning, which allows for 50 per cent boats and 50 per cent float homes.”

Valliere is in meetings with Nanaimo Port Authority and the city to work out the final layout for what will become a floating community, which could ultimately include about 40, 110-square metre homes with an projected selling price of about $425,000 each.

The relatively small footprint of each home helps keep down moorage costs.

“On the water you’re paying moorage per square foot, so the bigger you go the more it’s going to cost you and, well, you’ve got to be able to afford it too,” Valliere said.

Each home would have about 50 square metres per floor, plus a rooftop deck.

What’s envisioned is essentially a controlled, floating subdivision built to B.C. float home standards. Banks will finance homes built to that standard, which includes a positive flotation concrete design that won’t sink. They will also be built to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum standard.

“People who live on the water tend to be more green than other people anyway because of their lifestyle,” Valliere said. “They’re conscious. You can’t just spill something overboard here, you know. It’s the water. You have to live here.”

Constructing the docks and homes means the existing shipyard buildings will be pressed into service for the next five to seven years. Some of them will be used for equipment and supplies storage, but others will play roles in construction as will the marine ways and other equipment used for boat maintenance and refits.

Valliere said a 1,000 tonne marine way on the site could allow several float homes to be built on it simultaneously and then floated to nearby docks and construction of multiple homes could employ up to 40 workers.

“We can have a welder come in the welding shop and use that building and somebody else use this [building],” Valliere said.

“Until we’re ready to tear them down we’ll put businesses in there and operate it,” Valliere said. “The yard is going to be pretty well clear of all the stuff you see down there. It’s just going to be buildings instead of all these containers and things everywhere. They’ll be gone and what it creates is just a huge amount of parking.”

Site cleanup will be done in stages from the north side of the lot working south until the marine way, where the most intensive environmental clean up will be required, is finally dismantled. Revenue generated from the site will help with environmental cleanup costs, which could run as much as $3 million.

“By the time we get down there we should be well enough ahead of the game that we can afford to take a hit down there, otherwise if you have to fork out $7-8 million right off the bat, before you even start to do anything, it just doesn’t work and that’s why nobody was interested in it,” Valliere said. “They just couldn’t make the figures work.”

In years to come, Valliere envisions the property evolving into a tourist attraction spot where people can stroll the waterfront and floating community to visit a permanent totem pole carving studio, commercial businesses on Stewart Avenue and other attractions onsite.

The property will also add another link connecting the waterfront walkway to Departure Bay.

If all goes as planned the floating community should start taking shape by February 2015.

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