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Landmark's redevelopment could spur harbour plan: Fortin

Nov 24 2011
CPR Steamship Terminal: Four bids under review. 

CPR Steamship Terminal: Four bids under review.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, timescolonist.com

Redevelopment of the CPR Steamship Terminal building could be the lead domino in bringing about a new vision for Victoria's harbour, Mayor Dean Fortin said Wednesday.

The Provincial Capital Commission is picking a tenant for the landmark 1924 building, which was formerly home to the Royal London Wax Museum. While Fortin is not involved in the selection process, he said he is excited that the building could become part of a new Belleville Street ferry terminal.

"We certainly see that as an opportunity to spur the redevelopment of the harbour. It's just a piece and a very necessary piece," Fortin said. A plan for the harbourfront will be high on the new council's agenda, he said.

"It's been identified in our strategic plan and under our economic development plan as one of the major things that we can do," he said.

"You have professional planners from around the world who come in and say, 'Why do you give your best views in the city to cars?' It's true, and there's not even people sitting in those cars."

Four bidders are seeking to lease the building from the publicly run PCC. One of them, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, proposes to initially sublet the building to tenants, but has a long-term plan to use the building as an entrance to a new ferry terminal as part of a revitalization of the Belleville Street waterfront.

Other bidders are the Maritime Museum of B.C., which wants to move from Bastion Square, and businessman Bob Wright, who has proposed an attraction focusing on B.C. The fourth applicant has not been disclosed.

Matt MacNeill, who has withdrawn his proposal for a market similar to Seattle's Pike Place, has argued for an overall plan that would breathe new life into the "tired" harbourfront.

MacNeill said public agencies owning harbourfront land should work together on a plan that would include improved docks at Belleville Street, a walking path and an end to waterfront parking lots. The PCC, the harbour authority, the province and the city all own land along the upper and lower harbours.

Several recent planning documents — including the draft official community plan, the downtown area plan and the economic development strategy — have stressed the future of the harbour, but the last comprehensive plan for the area dates back a decade.

Ida Chong, the provincial minister responsible for the PCC, said she agreed that investments in planning are needed. "We cannot have that be a bottleneck or a detriment to our tourism industry, which Victoria relies heavily on," she said. "It's a major port for us and we'll be looking at that."

Outgoing Victoria Coun. Lynn Hunter, who is on the PCC board, said provincial support is key because of the proximity of the legislative precinct.

"You've got to have the premier involved in this and be very supportive or it's not going to go anywhere," Hunter said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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