Mayor Randy Hawes still sees potential in the district’s waterfront, and a strategy has been created to engage almost 90 different landowners along the Fraser River.
In the past, there have been attempts to bring some owners to the table, but Hawes believes this is the first concerted effort at a dialogue with businesses while keeping an eye towards the future.
“We need to basically suggest that if they have an interest in getting together so they can move their property into something else, we need to come to some kind of agreement,” Hawes said, adding even though legally they wouldn’t have put all of these properties together, they would have an agreement between owners that they’re going to work towards it.”
Some roadblocks stand in the way. Environmental testing will be necessary for the district to see what type of soil sits beneath many of the properties, and if there’s floodproofing that would be required. A handful of businesses are already profitable as well, which would make it hard to get a large land assembly together if there is no viable alternative location for those enterprises.
“If you had 20 of them and you could do something with them, that would provide the impetus and the sparkplug … but then you still have the problem of the guys with the businesses that are still viable and making some money. They need a place to go.”
“If we’re going to get real about this, it’s time to get real. For years and years and years we haven’t been real about it – we’ve been pie in the sky.”
Hawes says it’s easy to imagine the potential of the waterfront. Commercial-residential type buildings are a prime target due to the ability to keep businesses on the ground floor and a new supply of housing to the area.
“Now you start talking about little restaurants and bistros down by the waterfront,” he said, “… that’s what people like.”
The district is hoping to have made some progress on a potential deal by late spring of 2017.