Ian Robertson sees Ogden Point as a “blank canvas” with which to create services, enhanced public spaces and a more welcoming area for the thousands of cruise ship passengers who disembark every year.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO touched base with Victoria city council recently to bring them up to speed on proposed plans for the site, one of the largest facilities the GVHA manages around the city’s waterfront.
The draft master plan includes new commercial and retail development along the Dallas Road edge of the 34.7-hectare property, as well as a raised cruise ship terminal with room for tour buses underneath, a First Nations cultural and retail area and improved pilotage, heliport, marine service and boat launch facilities. A possible hotel opportunity near the head of the breakwater is also in the mix.
The GVHA signed a memorandum of understanding with the City to complete and present the master plan by the end of 2017, Robertson said. The plans, in the public realm for almost a year, “haven’t changed much since our last update,” he added. Deeper consultation with city staff will begin soon, with the finalized plan likely to come before council in early 2018.
“Our end goal is to begin the rezoning process for the master plan [after that] and have the rezoning in front of council by December 2018 or January 2019.”
While the site is open to the public to a degree, the need for a more streamlined design to make better use of this prime waterfront land has been acknowledged.
“First and foremost the goal … is to make it a site that is welcoming to the residents of not just James Bay, but the residents of Greater Victoria 365 days a year, and to bring in opportunities to attract people all year round,” Robertson said.
Such things as an ongoing farmer’s market, more community use of the warehouse space on Pier A and even a mirroring of sorts of Granville Island, where industrial and retail uses co-mingle, are envisioned. “The cruise industry will continue to be a big part of that, as will the First Nations,” he added.
Robertson pointed out that creating more revenue opportunities at Ogden Point is not being done simply for development sake, but to help the GVHA maintain the aging infrastructure around the 110 acres of marine property for which it is responsible. “Marine infrastructure is very expensive to maintain. We’re doing an excellent job, but my biggest fear is an engineering report coming in and telling us we need to replace something significant.”
The cruise ship terminal is the highest profile element on its management list, and for good reason. This year Ogden Point will see an all-time record of 240 ship visits, a reflection of the fact Alaska has become the second-leading cruise destination in the world, as identified by Cruise Lines International Association.
Improving and enhancing this 100-plus year old working terminal is a major part of the master plan, Robertson said, but doing so alongside the other proposals takes consideration of many users, especially the James Bay neighbourhood.
“It’s about finding that balance of mitigating the impact our operations have on the community,” he said, and finding ways to sustain the GVHA’s work around Victoria’s harbour.