Nanaimo city council has voted to fund a study to create a real estate development strategy for city-owned properties in an area downtown called the civic precinct. (City of Nanaimo image)

Nanaimo RCMP’s space needs prompt city to assess its properties in that area

Council approves $120,000 to develop real estate strategy for ‘civic precinct’ in the Old City Quarter

Nanaimo RCMP’s need for a bigger detachment is causing the city to review how it plans to deal with real estate it owns downtown and where it might locate a new police headquarters.

The issue was brought up at a special council meeting Monday when Bill Corsan, director of community development, presented a report providing background information about city-owned land in the ‘civic precinct’ area around Selby, Prideaux and Fitzwilliam streets.

The city owns about 2.4 hectares of land in the area currently occupied by the Nanaimo RCMP detachment, a federal RCMP building, Nanaimo Fire Rescue Station No. 1, a Nanaimo Fire Rescue administration building, community services building, a transit exchange, city parking lots and RCMP parking and an affordable housing complex.

Nanaimo RCMP has outgrown its current detachment at 303 Prideaux St., built in 1987 and expanded in 2003. According to a staff report, by 2025 there will need to be space for at least 224 employees including 160 RCMP members and 64 municipal support staff.

Developing a proposed civic precinct real estate strategy requires hiring a consultant to do an analysis of the available lands in the area and prepare a detailed development strategy to make the best use of the those properties and determine the best financial options for future planning, design and construction. The cost to develop the strategy is $120,000, which will be taken from $300,000 set aside in the 2020 budget for economic development.

“This is being driven by the need to find a solution for the space needs in the RCMP detachment,” Corsan said.

He said an architect was hired in 2017 to look at options for rebuilding the RCMP building on its current site. The two options from that study were to build an expansion onto the back of the building facing Milton Street or to expand the front of the building facing Prideaux Street.

“They didn’t look at other sites in the neighbourhood and since then we’ve identified other opportunities that might be worth pursuing,” Corsan said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong asked why the RCMP detachment needs to be kept downtown at all and if moving the detachment elsewhere had been considered.

“I don’t see any need for it, but that’s me,” Armstrong said. “I just think we’re sitting on a very valuable parcel of land that could be sold and then we could put them in another area that’s not.”

Corsan replied that the study would focus on land the city already owns instead of having to sell and then purchase another property. Jake Rudolph, city chief administrative officer, said the study might flag other properties the city may want to secure in the area.

“We’re looking to rationalize our assets here and we’re also looking to build a strategy for the future … it will produce some solutions, building on what we have there, and maybe take a look at some other options,” Rudolph said.

Coun. Don Bonner asked if city staff could not prepare the report themselves instead of contracting out the study. Corsan said part of what the study will do is analyze the business case for city facilities investments versus the amount of revenue that can be retrieved from tenants that rent the facilities, such as the RCMP.

“That was the idea, was to have a consultant run through those numbers and to make sure that we actually have a business case that shows that it’s viable,” Corsan said.

Council voted, with Coun. Tyler Brown opposed, to direct city staff to address the space needs of the RCMP by exploring options within the civic precinct and develop a strategy for future planning and development in the area.
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