NANAIMO — A rezoning application to allow for what would be Nanaimo's second-tallest building has cleared a key hurdle.
The City's community planning and development committee supported a rezoning application to allow for a 24-storey, 109-unit residential condo project at 65 and 77 Chapel St. at a meeting last week.
The building, proposed to be near the courthouse, would be shorter than only the 28-storey Cameron Island building.
The project, called Marcielo, is spearheaded by Vancouver-based Wertman Development Corporation, who bought the two side-by-side lots, currently used for parking, about a year ago.
Vice-president Jason Wertman said the proposal marks their first foray into the Vancouver Island market. He said the scarcity and skyrocketing price of land around the Lower Mainland makes Nanaimo a very attractive market for both developers and potential buyers.
"The fact we can build here and potentially have people commute or retire from Vancouver to Nanaimo. There's appeal for everyone," Wertman told NanaimoNewsNOW. "There's talk of the foot ferry coming in that's going to bring commuters between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo...Families are moving an hour or more outside of Vancouver to be able to afford something. Nanaimo could offer that affordability and be closer."
The proposal calls for a significantly higher building than what the lots are currently zoned for, asking for an increase from roughly six storeys to 24. It would include 109 condos to be sold at market price, ground floor commercial and office space, an athletic club, townhouse units along Skinner St., and more underground parking spaces than required.
Wertman said their target buyer for what he called a "luxury condo development" would vary from older, semi-retired locals looking to downsize to professionals working in downtown Vancouver.
He said an open house several weeks ago heard mostly positive reviews, with many people questioning the impact of the high-rise on views and the city's skyline.
While Wertman said his company is determined to move ahead quickly on the project, referencing a highly optimistic goal of possibly breaking ground in early 2019, there are still several approvals left to clear. The rezoning application will come before Council, then if approved, move to a public hearing. From there, final approval is required before development and building permits can be applied for.
Despite the remaining hurdles, the proposal marks a continuation of increased interest in residential building for downtown Nanaimo. In late 2017, the City reported 161 multiple family units currently being built. In comparison, 203 multi-family units were constructed in the Harbour City's downtown core over the previous 10 years.
A building permit was issued late last month for an $8.6 million, 61-unit multi-family development next door to Wertman's proposal at 91 Chapel St.
Committee chair coun. Diane Brennan said the majority of the members felt the Marcielo building was "Elegant and beautiful and would be an asset to the downtown."
She said without making up her mind to support the project or not ahead of a public hearing, she feels the proposal ticks off a lot of boxes for the City's long term plan for the area and "Puts us on the map in terms of livable downtowns."
A staff report said the location of the high-rise is supported by the official community plan and would "Contribute to the mix of uses and residential density needed to support a vibrant downtown."
Brennan said she doesn't envision the proposed height of the building to be as controversial as the issue was in the past. "I think now the discussion will centre around what is the height it should be, not whether or not we should have a high-rise."
It's not known when the rezoning application will come before Council.