Nanaimo council took a step back to reassess its improvement plan for Maffeo Sutton Park on Monday, the same night it redesignated back to prakland nearly one hectare of land at the former Civic Arena site.
That land was part of the ill-fated conference centre hotel deal, which a previous council dangled in front of developers to build condo towers as increased incentive to develop the still-unbuilt hotel.
In 2008, the province awarded the city a $500,000 Spirit Square Grant as a 2010 Olympic legacy, which resulted in a large multi-purpose plaza, enhanced park access, a spirit eagle feature and improved routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
Four more improvement phases, which included a widened promenade, better trail access, an expanded bridge over Swy-a-lana Lagoon, a new performance bandshell and a lookout point, determined through public consultation, were all scheduled, but with the addition of the new land, council wants to reassess the plan.
“The rezoning has added more park, so we want to revisit the whole site,” said Mayor John Ruttan. “We’re just returning to the starting point.”
Phase 2 was to include a new amenity building as well as further improved access, but all phases are now on hold until an updated improvement plan can be developed, likely in 2012.
Coun. Diana Johnstone, who is also the chairwoman of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission, said the public will have an opportunity to once again review the revised plan and provide input.
She added that the Spirit Square has been a success since being built, hosting 140 annual events of all sizes while employing distinct features not found in other North American parks such as tent tied downs and potable water at the street trees.
Nanaimo resident Gary Chandler said he’s concerned revisiting the plan meant council had other uses the park, but was assured it would remain a place to gather for Nanaimo residents.
“Maffeo has always been a special events location and will continue to be a special events location,” said Richard Harding, director of parks, recreation and culture. “What we’re doing now is stepping back and looking at the rest of the park that hasn’t been touched.”
A new planning process will be put before the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission later this month for consideration, while the amenity building capital project will be put on hold until an update plan is adopted.