After some turbulent times the future is brighter than ever for the City of Nanaimo.
That was the message at Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog’s state of the city address to members of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
Krog, who made his address at the Coast Bastion Hotel, told those in attendance that Nanaimo is an incredibly unique city and is entering the most “thrilling time” in its history.
“Nanaimo is just so much more. We are not like any other community in the province,” he said. “We have everything going for us.”
Krog said the city is experiencing tremendous growth, having surpassed 97,000 people, and that there is plenty of development being undertaken. He said in the first two months of the year the city has already issued $90 million worth of building permits, adding that the conference centre hotel is moving forward, as is a hotel on 15 Front St.
“What that means is downtown Nanaimo businesses will see enormous benefits, but from my perspective as mayor of the city, with the conference centre utilized but not utilized enough, this is a tremendous boost,” he said.
During his speech, Krog touched on some proposed and planned projects for the city including the fast ferry service to downtown Nanaimo and replacement of the Nanaimo Fire Rescue Hall on Fitzwilliam Street. He also stressed that council is committed to improving relations with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and are committed to the environment as well as moving the city forward in a positive manner.
“You have got a progressive council, concerned about the environment, and at the same you have tremendous growth and development and construction being undertaken in the city,” he said. “That is incredibly positive.”
However, Krog’s speech wasn’t all rainbows.
Krog said Nanaimo has “some sad truths” and acknowledged the challenges around homelessness, crime and poverty, adding that the way the province built temporary supportive housing in the city could have been better, it was the right thing to do.
“I am not for a moment going to discount the suffering and the fear that has been created in the neighbourhoods and the people that have been victims of the petty theft and the crime and threats, but we have to step back as a community and as a society and recognize that there are people’s lives that have been changed literally forever,” he said.
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Krog said he truly believes Nanaimo is moving in the right direction. He said one of council’s priorities is to be supportive of increasing densification in the city’s downtown.
“We have been told that we need at least 5,000 more people living in the downtown core to support the businesses that are downtown so they are successful and viable, “ he said. “Nobody wants to see businesses start up and shut down, nobody. We want businesses that are established to grow and we want new businesses to come in and create employment and that’s what we are looking at and supporting densification downtown is a priority.”
Krog also said there’s “no question” the last few years of drama at city hall hurt Nanaimo’s reputation and discouraged investment in the community. However, he believes people are starting to once again look at Nanaimo as a place to do business.
“I think you’re seeing a real openness. People are coming to talk to the city and all of us now about what they would like to see happen and want to happen,” he said.
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