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Red Sands Beach creation part of downtown, waterfront master plan: consultants

Creation and retention of Red Sands Beach and its natural charm will be one of the main points stressed by a consulting group preparing to deliver the final presentation on the ambitious vision for Nelson’s downtown and waterfront Wednesday afternoon.

Stuart Jones of Vancouver’s IBI Group will use a video conference Wednesday, 1 p.m. in City council chambers to deliver what could be the long-awaited final word on creation of a master plan for the city’s waterfront and the downtown areas.

And with Red Sands Beach entrenched in the 134-page master plan as a park at the city’s most extreme east end, the report contained many of the points Nelsonites have been asking for, and a few extras.

The master plan study area encompassed 152 hectares of land in the city’s downtown core and all waterfront areas on its south and north shores.

The master plan recommendations included adding new at-grade or overhead crossings over the CPR tracks, promoting new mixed-use neighbourhoods at the waterfront, completing the waterfront trail system, adding new parks to the waterfront, protecting sensitive habitats, and building civic spaces that acts as neighbourhood focal points.

Around 200 additional multi-family residential homes are proposed to be added over time to the downtown on vacant sites, blending together residential, retail, light industrial, commercial and civic uses in a mixed-use setting.

“By doing so, neighbourhoods will contain live, work and play elements, encouraging walking and biking as an alternative to driving,” the report stated.

Delving into the neighbourhoods

The waterfront’s West (CP lands) and Central (Kutenai Landing) district will contain multi-level apartments, condominiums and townhomes to create a mixed-use neighbourhood, augmenting the downtown, particularly once linkages between these neighbourhoods are made.

Waterfront West will continue to serve light industrial business, with potentially eight hectares of CP Rail lands creating new light industrial land. The area could also be the relocation of Chahko Mika Mall which “would allow the current site in Waterfront Central to be redeveloped more intensively into a mixed use residential neighbourhood, a more appropriate use for this prime lakefront location.”

Through the creation of Kutenai Landing, Waterfront Central is envisioned as a primarily residential neighbourhood with around 600 new multi-family homes.

The Railtown district around the CP Station will continue to serve light industrial businesses, with an additional two hectares accessed at the western edge by adding the proposed short connector street between Baker and Government. The district could have modest additional infill multi-family residential of some 100 units.

Waterfront East could have approximately 200 multi-family residential homes, generally at lower densities and heights than Waterfront Central, a possible hotel and a modest component of neighbourhood-serving retail, all served by additional waterfront trail access and a park at the eastern end.

The Waterfront North Shore district is envisioned to have a new shore side park south of the Nelson Bridge and over the long-term a shoreline trail running the length of the district.

Political plaza plans

Infill opportunities were identified in the downtown, including a plaza in front of City Hall to generate more public activity in an important area that contained municipal and provincial government offices.

“Potential infill at the edges of this space, such as a café, would help frame and activate the plaza and enhance the significance of Ward Street,” the report noted.

Infill sites in the downtown were recommended to be of a mixed-use style of development, with commercial space on the ground floor and commercial space, residential or office use above.

Alleyway use for commercial opportunities was also recommended to provide affordable commercial space for business that could not otherwise afford space on the primary streets.

In total, up to 800 new multi-family housing units and 200 to 400 new jobs were foreseen within the waterfront. 

You’ve got to move it, move it

Five new streets are proposed to better connect downtown and the waterfront, including CPR Street to create a loop street network along the western waterfront. The street would be located adjacent and parallel to Cottonwood Creek.

Also suggested was a road from Baker Street to Government Road, Lakeside Drive to Poplar Street, Cedar Street extended to Lakeside Drive, a road from Sproat Drive to Seventh Street in Fairview and a short connection provided between Beatty Street and Red Sands Beach.

The report also recommended the transit system — including bus and streetcar — be coordinated and expanded to provide service to Waterfront West and Railtown districts.

Streetcar service was lauded as a viable long-term alternative to bus service, especially if an alignment could be secured to connect downtown and the waterfront.

An extension of the existing streetcar alignment further west along the Waterfront should also be considered, the report stated.

Park it here

There were several new parks proposed, with the popular and controversial Red Sands Beach — located at the eastern most point of Nelson’s south shore — be saved for a public park in order to serve the region as well as the new residents of Nelson Landing.

“In order to preserve its natural character this park should have minimal development, restricted to restrooms, a small picnic area, and a small amount of parking,” the report stated.

Parks were also recommended for the Cottonwood Creek mouth, a residential community park for Kutenai Landing and a North Shore park adjacent to the former ferry dock.

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Ten major objectives of the master plan

1. Create connections between downtown and waterfront

  • Three new possible connections identified across CPR tracks – one at-grade and two longer-term bridges – in order to strengthen the connection between the downtown and waterfront and vitalize the waterfront lands. The most critical of these is the connection between Lakeside Drive and Baker Street’s west end in order to make Lakeside Drive a looped system rather than a dead-end.

2. Infill downtown parcels

  • Key mixed-use infill and redevelopment sites identified within the downtown, especially along Baker Street, that reinforce its position as the nucleus of the city.

3. Heritage/new construction

  • New design guidelines created to provide direction for the ways new construction should relate to heritage buildings in order to encourage contemporary architecture to contribute positively to the existing streetscape.

4. Intensify Waterfront and Railtown districts

  • New mixed-use precincts identified within the Railtown, Waterfront West and Waterfront Central districts to promote complete, walkable neighbourhoods. New multi-family residential neighbourhood identified in the Waterfront Central district that brings more residents in close proximity to downtown and the water’s edge.
  • Height allowance increased for Light Industrial uses within Railtown district to encourage more intensive development that better utilizes the land base.

5. Enhance public waterfront opportunities

  • Identified strategies for completing the existing shoreline trail on the South Shore, and a possible new trail on the North Shore; for both sides, encourage its continuation beyond city limits. Identified additional opportunities for public and private water-based activities.

6. Protect sight lines

  • Designated sight lines protected from development in order to maintain views from downtown to the water. The sightline corridors form the basis for new waterfront street locations.

7. Enhance Cottonwood Creek

  • Designated the Cottonwood Creek corridor for rehabilitation plus a new multi-use trail linking Baker Street to the water.

8. Protect Red Sands Beach

  • Identified a new city park at Red Sands Beach — and preserve the adjacent tree grove — that will function as the eastern terminus of the shoreline trail.

9. Create civic spaces

  • Key civic spaces identified within the downtown and waterfront that serve as neighbourhood gathering spaces and promote art and culture, including at the CP Station, City Hall and key intersections downtown.

10. Enhance streetcar network

  • Identified streetcar route expansion options within the waterfront and downtown that take advantage of this historic mode of sustainable transportation.

Remaking the wheel

A community planning process was initiated 35 years ago with a waterfront recreation master plan, and since then other planning efforts and targeted improvements for the waterfront and downtown have occurred.

A steering committee was established to guide the master plan process — with three City councillors, City planning staff and the City manager — and two public workshops were held, each consisting of a morning workshop with stakeholders, and an evening workshop with the public at large.

Feedback from the workshops was received in the way of design ideas (stakeholder workshop), and on posters presented to the public, informing the overall master plan points.

A public meeting was then held in March to present the draft master plan and solicit additional feedback. Following each public workshop and meeting, people’s comments and ideas were reiterated in the form of a newsletter that was published on the City website.

A preliminary meeting with City council was held to present the draft master plan and receive feedback. A second meeting was held to present the final master plan for approval and adoption.