In true west coast fashion, the groundbreaking of a new master planned community in Port Alberni took place in the middle of a downpour.
The Anderson Hill master planned community is being constructed on Alberni District Secondary School’s former site, which has been vacant since the old school was demolished in 2014. The 23-acre lot in the middle of an established city is a unique opportunity, said District Group president and CEO Michael Nygren.
District Group officially broke ground on this development on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Despite the rain, the event drew a small crowd of investors, city staff and interested residents.
“We’re very particularly excited about this project,” said Nygren on Tuesday.
Although District Group is a real estate company based in Vancouver, Nygren and his business partner Brandon Crema both grew up in Port Alberni and attended the former ADSS site. The project is a “trip down memory lane” for them, he said.
“We would be lying if we said we weren’t putting some extra pressure on ourselves to make sure we’re going to get this project done properly and make everybody here proud,” Nygren added.
The Anderson Hill project will be a “phased” development, starting with 15 lots for single family homes along 16th Avenue. Construction is expected to begin within the next week. Phase two of the project will feature a four-storey apartment building on the corner of Burde Street and Anderson Avenue. Nygren said the plan is to build “from the outside in,” but future phases have not been planned yet.
“The project is going to evolve over a period of time to be a lot of different things,” he said on Tuesday.
The District Group will be able to build as needs evolve, said Nygren, with possibilities for 55+ seniors housing, town homes and apartment complexes. The community will feature green spaces and trails, as well as 250-300 units in total.
The project will involve an investment of about $50 million, and Nygren said the company plans to source locally for the construction as much as possible. “We think it’s an important aspect of the economic contribution in the city, in addition to solving the housing need,” he added.
Nygren said he and his partners have been treated “exceptionally well” by the city of Port Alberni, at the staff level and by mayor and council.
“I think it’s an under appreciated thing,” he said.
Mayor Mike Ruttan attended the groundbreaking on Tuesday, where he said the project represents “a belief in the future of Port Alberni.”
Ruttan was the last principal of the old school before it closed in 2012.
“This is a big opportunity in terms of location,” he said. “But what it represents is the belief that Port Alberni will continue to grow, to continue to thrive, and those are the things that we’re working on as a city.”