City purchases waterfront rail yard downtown

NANAIMO – City enters into purchase agreement to secure key piece of property in Nanaimo's downtown core.

The City of Nanaimo has entered into a purchase agreement to secure a key piece of property in Nanaimo’s downtown core.

On Thursday, city staff announced it is working on a sale agreement with Canadian Pacific to buy 10.8 hectares of the Wellcox Rail Yard at 7 Port Drive for $3.4 million. The property has long been discussed as an important piece of future downtown development.

Ted Swabey, the city’s general manager of community safety and development, said a master plan process for the property, including community consultation, will begin in 2013 – if environmental reviews go well, the property is scheduled to transfer March 31 – but the primary intent at this point is to build a transit node in partnership with the Regional District of Nanaimo.

“It’s primarily associated with the RDN’s long-term need to get a transit facility downtown,” said Swabey. “The master plan will include not just the land we’re buying but all of the CP lands and the waterfront lands.”

Other tenants on the property include GADD Marine and Island Pallet Solutions. The city will participate in discussions with both companies to determine encumbrances on title to ensure the property can be developed in the future.

Both SeaSpan and the Island Corridor Foundation hold land rights and rights of way on the property.

Coun. Diane Brennan said possibilities for the land goes beyond just a bus exchange.

“It will take some time to see where we want to go with it beyond a transit hub. First Nations would be vitally interested in what we do there, the south end will be interested because it will be an enhancement in their neighbourhood,” said Brennan. “And part of the ICF’s bigger plan is there could be two passenger rail stations in Nanaimo, one on Selby Street and if there is enough demand then one at this new site.”

She added Greyhound Bus Lines could benefit from the location along with passenger rail, and the location could even serve a foot passenger ferry servicing downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver.

“Not that that’s happening at the moment but if it was to happen it would be a good place for it,” she said.

According to Al Kenning, city manager, the purchase supports a number of goals outlined in the city’s Corporate Strategic Plan, including securing land that can help promote increased transit use, enhancing the city’s waterfront, which the 2013 financial plan has budgeted for, and taking responsibility over a key area of the city.

“The city is continually looking for ways to improve livability, accessibility and beauty of our downtown core,” said Kenning. “This agreement gives the city a long-term hold on an important piece of property. The public interests of Nanaimo residents who wish to see this property developed and aligned with the community’s downtown vision are now secured.”

Once the deal is secured, the city will later sell a portion of the land to the RDN to build its bus exchange on.

Joe Stanhope, RDN chairman, said the site is “an excellent location for a transit exchange and it will contribute to the efficient operation of the overall regional transit system.”

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