Driving to Ogden Point’s Pier B for the first time, it’s hard not to notice how much open concrete and parking spaces there are.
In the summer, Ogden Point is bustling with tourist activity and local James Bay residents enjoying the breakwater. However, on a Thursday afternoon in the off-season, most of it sits vacant — an eerie expanse of concrete overlooking the water, dotted with buildings labelled “Gift Shop,” which remain largely empty.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GHVA) is looking to fix that by creating a 30-year master plan for the area. Last Thursday, more than 200 residents were given a glimpse into what’s in store for the roughly 37 acres of land at Ogden Point during the second of two open houses.
“We’re very pleased with the work that’s been done so far. I think it’s giving people an idea of what I call the art of the possible — what could happen down here,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the harbour authority. “There’s much more work to do, and consultation with the community will be on-going.”
Currently in phase three of the four-phase plan, the harbour authority has identified a number of potential uses for the land, including yacht and bus storage, industrial, retail and commercial tenants such as a grocery store to serve the densely-populated neighbourhood.
It has also narrowed down what residents are hoping to see for the area, based on previous public consultation.
Many residents have expressed a need for a community gateway — a walking path that welcomes people into the site and a way for tourists to come off cruise ships and enter the community during the busy tourism season.
They are also floating the idea of potentially making Ogden Point a permanent home for the Maritime Museum of B.C., and hope to work with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to potentially create exhibition spaces.
“We’d like to get as much feedback as we can about what (the public) is seeing right now. Is this making sense to them?” said Mark Crisp, project director with Stantec, the company responsible for developing the master plan. “That really helps us focus the next stage of planning . . . this has the potential to be a really great site for Victoria.”
Consultation for the master plan began last year with residents and stakeholders participating in information sessions, open houses and workshops.
The most recent open house allows them to move on to the final phase of the plan, what Crisp calls the “meat and potatoes,” where they will add details such as architectural guidelines and what landscapes and buildings will look like.
“It really will be a guideline for future development. The fundamental part of that process is to create a little bit of certainty about the future . . . and we have to respect the community as well,” Crisp said.
The harbour authority has received push-back from the local community, who have raised concerns about noise from the nearby heliport, increased traffic and more emissions along Dallas Road.
Marg Gardiner, president of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, said the plan is on the right track, but hopes traffic and emissions concerns are dealt with before they move forward with the final plan.
“A major problem with it is, it’s 30 or 40 years build out. So we need some things fixed right away,” she said. “As far as the layout and thought and process, it’s very positive.”
Robertson said they’re doing “as much as they can” to address the concerns of the neighbourhood, including adding buildings as a barrier between the heliport and residents to help reduce noise.
The master plan is expected to be complete by the end of the year.