Chilliwack council voted to assemble a key block of land to kick-start major redevelopment in the city’s downtown core.
The land assembly idea is the first of 20 task force recommendations being rolled out from an exhaustive planning process for the downtown dating back to 2007, with the goal of accelerating downtown revitalization.
The city’s bold vision could see a mix of commercial and residential uses developed on a single 1.5 hectare property, with three “mid-rise buildings” built around an urban park.
The vision was unveiled in council chambers Tuesday afternoon in a presentation by urban planner Michele Cloghesy, of the consulting firm HB Lanarc, on behalf of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and its 20 recommendations to speed up the changes.
“Downtown revitalization is an ongoing process,” the consultant said, adding that major redevelopment like this will have a “ripple effect.”
The block being singled out for land assembly is bounded by Young, Yale and Princess.
City of Chilliwack already owns 10 properties on the block, and has decided to acquire the remaining ones through Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation, leaving three properties at the eastern end of the block.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re going with something that’s proven,” said Cloghesy, about the consolidation concept.
Large parcels like this one, provide opportunities for incentives to be offered, like tax relief, or heritage considerations, but it would probably take a while for the entire project to come to fruition.
“It’s a pretty nice parcel,” she said.
Parking could be built half a level below grade, which also makes it more appealing.
“By assembling a property of this size, we’re making the opportunity to come to Downtown Chilliwack more attractive for private developers,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “And we’re making space for a development that will drive significant positive change.”
To avoid any real estate speculation, the city will go in and acquire those properties at fair market value, and get them “shovel ready.”
“The timing is right,” said Coun. Ken Huttema after the meeting, who chaired the Downtown Core Task Force. He also singled out the land assembly recommendation as key, moving that council receive it and start implementing it.
“The development industry is starting to warm up,” he said. “I believe this will be an incredible catalyst.”
It wasn’t the right time to buy properties during the economic downturn, but full-lot consolidation makes sense now, and holding them until the market is right.
A public process will decide on the developer, and council will set terms of reference to meet existing design guidelines.
For more details on the plan and the task force’s ideas go to: www.chilliwackdowntownplan.ca/recommendations.
Implementation will be incremental, as market and economic forces dictate.