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Multi-unit residential development being advanced for Cottonwood Park

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
November 1st, 2021

Multi-unit residential housing is now being investigated in earnest for the Railtown neighbourhood’s Cottonwood Park, the city’s Development Services director says.

Sebastien Arcand told Nelson city council recently that city staff is in conversation with a local architecture firm over a “special study area” in Cottonwood Park that could eventually include multi-unit, multi-storey, residential buildings with ground floor community or commercial use spaces.

Located in behind the current location of the Nelson Leafs Bottle Depot, the area is undergoing the creation of a massing model of what that idea could look like on the city-owned property.

“The idea here would be to accommodate residential and at-ground community use or commercial,” Arcand told council at the last committee-of-the-whole meeting in council chambers.

One of the positive spinoffs of the potential development would be to “essentially have eyes on the park at all times to really make it a safe and well used area. It is a really beautiful park but it is underutilized,” Arcand added.

He cited one of the hallmarks of the Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) for Railtown was to use the assets the city had in the area, along with grants, to attract private investment, like the idea for Cottonwood.

“From an urban renewal perspective, it makes sense to begin by investing in the Cottonwood Park area of Railtown as it already provides a strong anchor for residential infill development,” he wrote in his report to council.

He said the city had obtained some grant funding to initiate some of the improvements in the plan (www.nelson.ca/DocumentCenter/View/692/Railtown-Sustainable-Neighbourhood- Action-Plan-PDF?bidId=).

Once the idea has been mapped out further it will be presented to city council for review.

The special study area was part of an update presentation on the progress the city was making in Cottonwood Park, which was a key part of the Railtown Plan, first revealed six years ago by the city.

The plan for the Railtown area presented a “more refined development scenario for the future of the area,” calling for 100 additional infill housing in mixed-used type developments.

 

Key projects

There are several key projects that will begin to materialize in the area, including the creation of a public washroom for the park and a parking plaza.

The washroom will be installed near the embankment at the edge of the park, along with a concession stand. Although it is still in the design phase, Arcand said it should be finished soon and will then go to tender, with construction hopefully beginning in spring of 2022 — completed in time for the next market season.

A parking plaza is also being designed for the area outside of the Rod and Gun Club, establishing a formalized gateway to the park.

A draft of the project has been done with the city expected to begin conversations with the different landowners surrounding it on how much parking can fit in, and how it will affect those in the area.

Three city-owned properties on Railway Street will also be dealt with, Arcand explained, with the land being slated for multi-unit residential as well — helping further transition the neighbourhood from mostly industrial use to mixed use community.

“What we have to leverage as a municipality is we have land, and council has given staff the go ahead to sell the lands near the park,” he said about Railway Street.

“The idea there was always to have multi-unit residential. So, as a condition of sale, we would want to see that happen.”

New lighting is expected to be installed next year in Cottonwood park, along with the provision of electrical capabilities to the stage area.

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