An artist rendering of a development proposal for 388 Machleary St. (Molnar Group image)

Development proposal for old Nanaimo hospital site moving to public hearing

Molnar Group seeks to build a 175-unit development at 388 Machleary St.

Development plans for the old Nanaimo hospital site moved one step closer to reality.

On Monday, city councillors gave first and second reading to official community plan amendment and rezoning amendment requests from Vancouver-based Molnar Group for a proposed residential development at 388 Machleary St., in the Old City Quarter neighbourhood.

The company is planning to build a 175-unit multi-family development consisting of 15 townhouse units and three rental buildings – containing micro, studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units – ranging from four to five storeys in height.

According to a staff report, the development will also include underground parking and a “public seating area” with “prominent” ocean views. The proposed development will be a mix of market rental units and strata condominiums.

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During Monday’s meeting, Andre Molnar of the Molnar Group told councillors that his company has spent the last two years planning and engaging with members of the Nanaimo Old City Association. He said the company is pleased with the proposal and urged council to support it.

“We want to build it and we think the community will tremendously benefit from it,” he said.

Molnar said over the two years, the neighbourhood association asked for numerous changes to the proposal and he said his group did what it could.

“We feel very strongly that we have definitely designed the project as per the discussions with NOCA and there is always a limit on how far you can listen to public input,” he said, adding that the company never intended to include townhouses on Machleary Street and four-storey buildings, but have since added them into the plans.

Under the property’s current zoning, Molnar said a developer could put 220-240 units of seniors’ housing on the site without having go through an OCP amendment or rezoning, but said the company didn’t want to go that direction.

“We wanted to do an inclusive project where everybody from Nanaimo can rent an apartment from us,” he said. “If we do a seniors’ housing project, we are excluding the majority of the population.”

Meanwhile, Janet Wright, member of Nanaimo Old City Association, told councillors that while the Molnar Group has been routinely engaging with her group, the association does not support the proposed development. She said residents are concerned about increased traffic and density.

“NOCA believes that the overwhelming density proposed at this site will lead to traffic problems and street parking issues,” she said. “Further, we believe the three no-through streets close to the site along with the increased density will worsen traffic flow.”

There was no discussion amongst councillors about Molnar Group’s proposal at Monday’s meeting.

Currently, the city’s official community plan designates the Machleary Street property as a ‘neighbourhood’ and has a target density range of 10 to 50 units per hectare in two- to four-storey buildings, according to the report, which notes that the 175 units proposed is 151 units per hectare. As a result, the Molnar Group is requesting an OCP amendment to change the property’s designation from ‘neighbourhood’ to ‘corridor,’ which would allow for medium-density developments in two- to six-storey buildings.

The 1.1-hectare property, bordered by Fitzwilliam, Franklyn, Machleary and Kennedy streets, was once the home to the old Nanaimo Hospital, Malaspina College and Malaspina Gardens during a 100-year period.

A public hearing for the proposed development has been scheduled for Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Shaw Auditorium. 
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