Keycorp Planning, the consulting firm charged with coming up with a plan for Lot A in Sooke, held the first of its public sessions on Saturday to get a sense of what residents want on the three-hectare municipally-owned property.
The lot, located at Wadams Way and Anna Marie Road, was purchased three years ago to house a new Vancouver Island Regional Library, and as a key component of the district’s city centre development plan.
Saturday’s session was billed as a “charrette” and was designed as an intensive working session during which a host of community groups were able to contribute to what will eventually be a master plan for the Lot A development.
“It was a very good event and we were able to get a really strong sense of what the community’s expectations are for this parcel of land”, said Niall Paltiel of Keycorp Planning Ltd.
“We had a number of adjacent landowners, the Sooke Fine Arts Society, the Sooke Country Market, M’akola Housing Society, the Sooke Seniors Centre, as well as the mayor and councillors and a variety of people who just wanted to drop in and offer their opinions.”
He added that some central themes clearly emerged from the input.
“There are certainly a number of places where people gather in Sooke, but what’s missing is a central civic hub. What we heard is that people want this space to fill that gap,” said Paltiel.
Jeff Bateman was one of the councillors on hand at the charrette and he came away with a good feeling about the process to date.
“The public input was very important. We got an idea of where the public space should be located (the south side) and where larger buildings would best be situated (on the east side),” said Bateman.
“The idea of creating a public gathering space was very much an overriding theme, but the key is to see what we do next”
What’s next is for Keycorp to take all the input they received and to create some conceptual plans for consideration. At that point, they plan to take those plans back to the public through a series of open houses, after which they will further refine the plans and take the result to council’s committee-of-the-whole.
After a few final refinements, the plans will be brought to council for approval so work can begin.
“It’s important to manage expectations on a project like this,” cautioned Bateman.
“We have the bones in place, or soon will have, but it’s going to be a process to get the site totally developed. I can see this being a project that could be five to 10 years before it’s totally completed. don’t forget that we have a lot of things to do in the community, ranging from sewers to sidewalks and that this is only one of the tasks before us.”
Despite that cautionary note, Bateman stressed that he was pleased with the weekend event and excited about a project that has the potential to fundamentally change and enhance the community.