The City of Port Alberni will be developing a request for proposals (RFP) for two parcels of land in the Uptown area known as the Harbourview lands.
In February, the city ran a consultation program with online and in-person engagement, including a Feb. 19 committee of the whole meeting, to receive community feedback on the future of the city-owned lots. City planner Katelyn McDougall presented the results from this consultation during a council meeting on Monday, March 11. The purpose of the consultation, she explained, was to have “an open and honest discussion” with the community.
Comments from the public were torn between interest in developing the site and a desire for more green space in the city.
The online engagement portion of the consultation had 67 survey responses, of which 57 percent expressed a desire to develop the Harbourview Lands in order to revitalize the downtown area. Respondents provided their own ideas for the lands, including seniors’ housing, mixed-use buildings and a protected park. Area neighbours were also engaged—some were concerned about a loss of green space, while others “expressed excitement” about a potential development.
“The community has really mixed opinions about the future of the Harbourview Lands,” McDougall concluded on Monday. “Ultimately…there’s probably a balanced approach that the city could take. That would probably involve developing a portion of the land while being very mindful and putting specific caveats around public open space and preserving some area for park. “
The lots, which are zoned for core business, present the city with a “unique opportunity” to revitalize and redefine the downtown core, but previous attempts to develop the plans have been met with either opposition from the community or a lack of interest from developers. The area is approximately 2.166 acres and consists of a gravel parking area, a grass and treed area and a public laneway. The land offers views of the Alberni Inlet and is located between Harbour Quay and the Uptown arts district.
Council asked city staff to develop an RFP for the entire site and bring it back to council for review.
Councillor Cindy Solda made the motion on Monday, pointing out that an RFP is a good way to test the market and see what developers want to do with the lands.
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed, but said more work needs to be done before the RFP is put out to the public. “I don’t want to see us make any decisions on moving foward with putting out an RFP until we hear from First Nations,” she said, adding that the area is an important site for local First Nations.