Development of 3.5-acre Campbell River waterfront site finally has a plan

Plan includes public marketspace, park and plaza with trails, a new home for the CAHS and aquarium

It’s been well over a decade of frustration and controversy, but there is finally a plan for the 3.5-acre site on Campbell River’s downtown waterfront.

After numerous public consultation sessions and presentations from members of the public with ideas on what the property should become, the City of Campbell River’s Waterfront Task Force presented its vision for the property on Tuesday night at the Community Centre, complete with architectural drawings and models.

Stephen Cohlmeyer, the architect on the project proposal, says they took the community consultation that has been happening for quite some time and tried to incorporate all the important facets being heard from the public: that the space remain as public property, that it continue the waterfront pedestrian and cycling route, that it provide significant public park space and that it provide services that “enhance the recreational, cultural and intellectual richness of the community.”

To that end, the proposal is to build a large park and plaza area with walking and cycling trails along the waterfront and a three-storey building that will house the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, an aquarium, a restaurant and conference centre – along with a mixed-use “incubator” area for local entrepreneurs to sell locally-produced products and an indoor market area with room for art displays.

Mayor Andy Adams says they received at least three separate proposals for a performing arts centre of some kind, but that didn’t seem appropriate due to all the work that has been done on the Tidemark Theatre lately. They did, however, like the idea of having another space that would perform a similar role, but for smaller audiences, incorporated into the design. Adams says the idea was that they want to compliment – not compete – with the other venues around town.

“What we’ve done here is propose a 220-seat lecture theatre that is in the mid-point between the Timberline Theatre, the Rivercity Players and the Tidemark that is a similar size to the Shaw Theatre in the Nanaimo Convention Centre that could be for things like lectures during conferences, city council meetings, regional district meetings, First Nations band meetings, TED Talks, that kind of thing.”

But the main focus of the building, in some ways, will be to house academic, science and educational opportunities, Adams says.

“If we focus on who we are, we can do something unique here that ties in with the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, the North Island College aquatic programs – we’ve got the Tula Foundation here, as well – maybe we can attract some more.”

Despite the plan being relatively fleshed out at this point, there are no plans to get shovels in the ground anytime soon and no timeline on when the plan could become a reality – mainly due to the funding complication.

Even if there is 100 per cent buy-in once people see the plan, Adams says, “we’re still looking at a $24-$25-million project. Knowing that there are some potential anchor tenants and the funding that could come along with that, that still leaves a significant amount.”

Adams says it’s possible that it will be done in stages, “where we maybe do the waterfront walkway and park area first, because that’s what people seem to really want most, and that would buy us some time to go out and leverage some federal, provincial, corporate, private and non-profit agencies.”

More information on the project and how it came to its present state can be found at campbellriver.ca under “Planning, Building & Development” tab.

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