Coming right on the tail of the Cow Bay Marina and public breakwater opening in Cow Bay, providing the public with added waterfront access, the Prince Rupert Port Authority has set plans in motion to build even more of an ocean-front presence.
Speaking before mayor and council at the last Prince Rupert city council meeting April 25, port authority vice-president trade and development and public affairs Shaun Stevenson and vice-president commercial and regulatory affairs Andrew Mayer presented on development of the lands adjacent to Atlin Terminal.
The purpose of the development, which has been in the planning stages for a couple years, is to provide the public with more waterfront access and create a hub of activity within the area that can draw residents to the ocean, while enjoying Cow Bay.
“[Due to a] scarcity of access opportunities, we really looked at this as an opportunity to explore, from the Kwinitsa Station north or east, the opportunity to develop a community-centric waterfront vision,” said Stevenson.
“We can build out the waterfront both for our community, but also for tourism objectives and steer the course for the future as we saw opportunities to increasingly expand both retail commercial space and public access on the waterfront.”
Included in the port’s plans, which ramps up after acquisitions of land from the city will be completed this month, are mixed use buildings, such as a waterfront community plaza, potential office space for the port or other tenants (this space is largely dependent on large projects moving forward), a tighter and more pedestrian-friendly street environment to “permit both vehicles and pedestrians to safely co-exist,” a market square, waterfront canopy, centrepiece plaza and buildout of the current parking lot across the street from Atlin Terminal.
The three main areas of development
The three main areas of development to see new structures include the parking lot, the existing and recently demolished Odin Seafood dock (between Atlin Terminal and the Northland Cruise Ship Terminal) and the triangular property across the street from the dock.
The port (PRPA) engaged the services of Vancouver’s Office of Mcfarlane Biggar Architects + Designers (OMB) to develop the plan.
“The process really started in early 2012. It involved a consultative process with community groups, local businesses, property owners, community service providers and other agencies, heritage groups, First Nations stakeholders, environmental groups, recreation and tourism interests and other cultural arts stakeholders in the community to determine what their values were in creating a waterfront development vision,” said Stevenson.
“What came out of that was a high amount of interest in creating public spaces and calming the traffic down in the current area of the Northland Cruise Ship Dock and also … creating an area where it was both invigorated by daytime and nighttime use and celebrating history.”
The development by the port would follow the implemented Cow Bay Design Guidelines, which encourages structures with maritime character, durable building materials and bright colours.
Street design characteristics, such as curb-less streets, paved surfaces, appropriate street widths, parallel parking, trees and mixed use buildings are conducive to a “vibrant streetscape” and OMB’s experience in public space planning seemed well-suited to the Prince Rupert’s process, the port executives mentioned.
“Instead of large parking lots in front of buildings, we focused on hiding the parking in behind buildings, so it kept a very intimate and tight streetscape, which is more conducive to a livable community,” Stevenson said, adding that the plaza’s capacity in three different areas would be 600-900 people, 250 and 1,500-plus and would be a further asset in creating a large gathering area for cruise ship passengers.
Contributed/Prince Rupert Port Authority
An artist’s rendering of the proposed office space building and public pavilion next to Atlin Terminal.
Development to be completed in phases
The development will be completed in phases should the port’s board of directors pass the plan and construction contracts in the coming weeks. Phase One is recommended to entail the Odin Dock area and implementation of the canopy.
“That area has served a dual purpose. It is being considered for the potential for a new office development, whether it be the port authority, or a new party, and a large-scale covered public space centred on the waterfront adjacent to the Northland Cruise Ship Terminal. We’re really excited about this being a town square or an access point working in compliment to the city’s marina to create a public space,” said Stevenson.
Phase One would also incorporate an anticipated Third Avenue extension, new parking lot and woodland restoration for the land adjacent to George Hills Way and cost (with the Odin development) approximately $25.5 million combined.
Phases Two through Six then focuses on the centrepiece plaza, a Cow Bay building where the current parking area is, and even a new marina with further costs.
Range of support for the project
Feedback on the plan within council chambers ranged from skepticism to support, with one resident asking why the city would sell more land to the port after it has restricted waterfront access up to this point and cited Nanaimo as a model that should be followed.
Another Rupert resident mentioned that the port gets a bad reputation in the city because of the restricted water access, but in reality the port is just an enforcement body for Transport Canada, which after 9/11, has imposed strict guidelines on port cities through the Marine Security Act, and supports the development.
Coun. Nelson Kinney asked if any of the buildings would obstruct any town occupants’ views and Stevenson mentioned that none of the buildings’ heights are currently forecasted to be above three storeys.
Kinney also stated that he’s tired of past Prince Rupert councils saying ‘no’ to development, which was met with applause from council audience.