A city that was once the halibut capital of the world, and once vibrant with life stemming from work at the pulp mill, is now ready to turn over a new leaf after many hardships.
Redesign Rupert unveiled one of the biggest changes in Prince Rupert’s history on Thursday night at the Lester Centre of the Arts.
Redesign Rupert is a partnership with the City of Prince Rupert, DP World, the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), Ridley Terminals Inc., Community Futures and Raymont Logistics.
RUPERT DIVIDED INTO THREE AREAS
One of the biggest changes to the design of Prince Rupert is to cluster the downtown into a smaller area, dividing Rupert’s core into three sections: Midtown District, Downtown District and the Marina District.
Larry Beasley, world renowned and former Vancouver city planner, helped craft a master plan.
The Midtown District, walkable from downtown, is imagined to be a laid back district with low scaled buildings and a lot of heritage taking advantage of the historic buildings, Beasley explained. A knowledge hub filled with students living in the south end of the area is imagined along with parks filling up the north end.
“There are lovely new townhouses insinuated into the area and restored units because this is a location for families who don’t want to live in single family and would like to live in a former urban setting. Rupert Square is diversified and becomes a pivot into the downtown,” he said.
The downtown core focuses the major city activities into a very tight, central district with two energy points — Upper Town and Lower Town (Cow Bay area).
“This is the area that you make those first investments from. This is the area that starts to define everything else that happens. That’s number one,” said Beasley. “Major new investments need to go into it as soon as possible to add offices, housing, retail and entertainment and nightlife. Don’t forget that when you’re putting this forward, if this doesn’t happen, a lot of plans will not happen — this is the pivotal project.”
Beasley believes the port companies should move their administrative offices to a gateway location where they will have offices that will draw people into the district.
“Things that just haven’t wanted to go there in the past — ancillary businesses, workplaces. There will be more shops, restaurants, cafes, food stores, and tourist attractions will come as well. You’ll see if you get one energy force, then that has demand for other energy forces and then they start to come together to make change,” he said.
“We hope for example, that each of the First Nations might think that this is an area to have a service centre for their needs and a place to interpret their wonderful culture to others all around them and all around the world.“
“This is a place for a lot of new housing to accommodate new residents who will become the customers of the downtown. You can’t have a shop unless you have enough customers,” explained Beasley of the newly re-imagined area.
The area is imagined to be the “stylish” housing area with best views and access to the water, an open work space for businesses and an open market. During the planning process First Nations groups also brought forward their desire to use the space to express their culture, included in the master plan.
Beasley reiterated that the naming of the areas as well as their boundaries are only concepts which may be changed following legislative and technical review as well as public input.
BEGINNING STEPS WITH SEVERAL PROJECTS ANNOUNCED
PRPA announces Seal Cove Habitat Restoration Project
The Prince Rupert Port Authority announced a collaborative agreement with the city to incorporate new public recreational access into a wetlands and fish restoration project along the Seal Cove Slough shoreline.
PRPA has an obligation to create and restore the marine habitat impacted by the construction of the Fairview-Ridley Connector Corridor. Working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), they identified the restoration of the Seal Cove Slough as an ideal project to achieve the habitat enhancement objectives of its compensation program.
“Environmental sustainability is a core value of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. As we go through various port projects we work diligently to both reduce or mitigate the impacts of the port expansion, but there are times when expansion projects have an impact on the market. In that case, we’re required to look at compensation offsets and rehabilitating habitat elsewhere within the port and area to offset the impacts we have,” Stevenson said at the Redesign Rupert unveiling.
Stevenson used the Road Rail Utility Corridor and Fairview Container Terminal expansion as examples of projects which require offsets for their environmental impacts. That road will take trucks out of the downtown core to improve the safety of the community and reduce the environmental impacts of the trucking activity, but it comes with an impact to the marine department.
The habitat compensation project will include the development of new marine riparian areas, intertidal marshes and mudflats, eelgrass beds, and other shoreline planting, and will also serve to enhance visual appeal and feature environmental education components. It will encompass a lighted pathway around the slough, a pedestrian bridge, benches, tables, and interpretive signage, becoming another community waterfront asset.
Lax Kw’Alaams announces new affordable housing
Lax Kw’alaams announced their commitment to work on housing issues in the area with a new subsidized affordable housing unit.
The site selected will be on Eleventh Ave. East at the 4060 unit.
The housing project is an agreement with the province, who committed to funding the project, and a partnership with B.C. Housing as well as the city.
The subsidized housing is open to both band members as well as anyone in the community who will be able to fit the criteria to occupy affordable rental housing.
“This is definitely an exciting moment for Lax Kw’alaams and to do our part and resolve the housing issue here at Prince Rupert as Prince Rupert is rapidly growing. The 2030 vision is awesome and we are glad to be a part of it,” said Lax Kw’alaams councillor Harvey Russell speaking on behalf of Lax Kw’alaams’ council and mayor, Gary Reece, who was unable to attend due to several meetings in Vancouver.
Russell said Lax Kw’alaams recently completed a three day session in the planning and architectural drawing of the housing unit. A 3D model and presentation on the project is set to take place in the near future.
Legacy Inc. purchases CN land
Robert Long, city manager, announced Legacy Inc.’s purchase of CN’s Lot 9 — at the end of Third Ave. by Cow Bay Road and George Hills Way — a piece of property they have been attempting to acquire for many years.
“So for many years, those that have been around for a long time, will recognize that Third Ave. should have gone running through. To CN’s credit, I think they’ve finally seen the light, that it would be appropriate to sell us this property which they subsequently have and we now have that very large piece of property that runs all on George Hills Way,” Long said.
One of the plans mentioned by Long is to collaborate with property owners, in what is being referred to as the Marina District, to activate the area.
“We built a better relationship with CN over the last few years and as result of that they are going to talk to us about some of the other properties that we’ve coveted as a city and as a community for many years. We hope that in the next while as a result of this plan, and with results of the community support, that we will be able to convince them to continue to work with us in terms of the properties which they own,” he said.
$30M Rupert Landing and MOU signed with Gitxaala
A $30 million dollar waterfront development, known as Rupert Landing, was announced by the City as well as the Gitxaala First Nations.
The airport ferry and Gitxalaa’s new ferry will be relocated by Kwinitsa Station. A new marina will also be built with upgrades to the CN building.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between both parties following the announcement.
“I am honoured I can be here tonight, to celebrate with you the launch of Redesign Rupert including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Gitxaala and the City of Prince Rupert for the redevelopment of Rupert Landing. It is a confirmation of how our communities working can get together and achieve great things. The Rupert Landing project is a milestone achievement that will transform Prince Rupert waterfront into a community space that supports retail, tourism and travel,” Linda Innes, chief councillor of Gitxaala First Nation, said.
To move forward with the vision, the city has hired experts to help instate the Vision Stewardship Council — a co-governing body that is going to oversee the Redesign Rupert process for the next 10 years, with emphasis on collaboration with First Nations groups.
The Redesign Rupert partners are bringing in additional expertise to update the official Community Plan and activate the plan legally as zoning and other bylaws are expected to change.
Another piece of Redesign Rupert is branding, advertising and recruitment said John Farrell, general manager of Community Futures.
“We hired experts in communications to help us take the best pieces in Prince Rupert and project that out across Canada,” Farrell said.
Promotional videos are also expected to be launched in the new year.
In January, the City of Prince Rupert will be engaging in a feedback process so everybody in the community can have an opportunity to comment on the vision of Redesign Rupert.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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