A proposed highrise building in downtown Nanaimo took two more steps in the approval process.
On Monday, Nanaimo city councillors unanimously approved first and second readings of a rezoning amendment for the proposed 24-storey mixed-use building at 65 and 77 Chapel Street. The developers requested increasing the floor area ratio and increasing the maximum building height from 19.8 metres to 78.5 metres.
The Wertman Development Corporation’s Marcielo building would be constructed on a five-storey podium and come with 109 residential condo units, five townhouse units as well as ground-floor commercial units and office space. There would also be a two-floor athletic club, 167 underground parking stalls, a public plaza with artwork and trees located where Skinner and Chapel streets meet. As required by the city, the developers are contributing $72,200 towards the Maffeo Sutton Park improvement fund, $72,200 towards the city’s affordable housing fund. They will also be spending $38,000 on public art for the property.
During Monday’s meeting, Lainya Rowett, the city’s manager of current planning and subdivision, told councillors the proposed development is located within the “civic heart of Nanaimo.” She said the proposed development will not have a negative impact on view corridors and meets the intent of the Chapel-Front character area, citing a 2002 downtown Nanaimo planning document.
“This is obviously inline with the growth strategy for infill development in the downtown core, which is close to services, amenities, transit,” she said. “It’s located within the Chapel-Front highrise zone in the neighbourhood plan and is outside of the major public view corridors.”
Should the proposed highrise come to fruition, it would be a real benefit to downtown, said Coun. Ian Thorpe, telling councillors he had no issue with the building but is concerned that it would eliminate two parking structures in an area where parking is limited.
“My concern is not for the parking for the tenants, but will we be losing too much public parking? Because I have a personal suspicion that are downtown parking is becoming very, very limited,” Thorpe said.
Dale Lindsay, the city’s director of community development, said the removal of the parkades will put additional “pressure” on the parkades downtown. He said at some point the city may have no choice but to look at expanding its existing parking structures.
“This might be a trigger for that,” he said.
The amount of money earmarked toward public art as part of the developer’s community contribution concerned Hong, who said he’d like to see that money allocated towards the city’s affordable housing fund instead.
“I’d like to have a nice buffer for the housing legacy reserve fund, so we can actually have money to make a dent in the issues of affordable housing,” Hong said.
Meanwhile, Coun. Diane Brennan said she really likes the project because it is in an “area of town that has been waiting for this kind of development” and felt the $38,000 allocated for public art was acceptable.
“We want to be a little city that thinks big and acts big and public art is a really important part of that,” Brennan said.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Shaw Auditorium.