A permit approval for the redevelopment of the Nanaimo Correctional Centre means the project will proceed as envisioned.
Nanaimo city council voted unanimously at a meeting July 26 to approve proposed variances, which included increasing the maximum allowable building height to 18.7 metres from 14m and to reduce the minimum required watercourse setbacks along Brannen Lake and the Millstone River to accommodate proposed upgrades to an existing road, security fence and utilities.
The province is spending $167 million to rebuild the jail on 47 hectares next to Brannen Lake on Biggs Road.
“One of the key things for us is to ensure that this is a great place for the residents – we like to call them the residents – of this campus,” said Tony Gill, architect with IBI Group Architects.
He went on to describe the main structures of the facilities, including the residences, which face the lake. The main building houses administration, more residences and a medical clinic. There is a recreational facility in the centre of the campus with a playing fields, a knoll of trees near the recreation centre and an area for “horticultural actitivities.”
“As a campus, we want to make sure that the residents can connect back to nature and have the opportunity to learn and have learning environments within the landscaping itself,” Gill said.
He said architects have “worked with the topography” of the land and have set the buildings so that they are not visible from the streets and so they take advantage of the lake and the views.
Coun. Jim Turley asked if seasonal variations in water levels of Brannen Lake and the Millstone River had been accounted for regarding the watercourse setback variance. Jeremy Holm, city director of development approvals, said the builder, Stuart Olsen Construction, will raise an existing perimeter road around the prison.
“There are sections of the existing perimeter road that experience seasonal flooding,” Holm said. “That’s part of the reason they’re elevating it slightly. As well, they’ll be doing mitigation, as recommended by their qualified environmental professional, in those areas, so there’ll be an improved condition from the current condition with respect to the watercourse setback.”