September 6, 2007
Ferry misses out on $100 million harbour upgrade
A $100-million redevelopment plan has been unveiled for Victoria’s Inner Harbour, but it doesn’t include the vessel that brings in most of the downtown sightseers.
The plan calls for a new passenger ferry terminal, hotel, restoration of the historic CPR ferry terminal building and extension of the causeway.
The projected site of the hotel is the western portion of the 2.8-hectare (6.9-acre) site just west of the B.C. legislative buildings, which shares top billing for tourists along the Inner Harbour and causeway with the Fairmont Empress.
Left out in the cold is Black Ball Transport’s M.V. Coho, which has brought 20 million passengers and five million vehicles into Victoria’s Inner Harbour since its inaugural run on Dec. 29, 1959.
An upset Ryan Burles, Black Ball Transport vice-president, said the city would lose its biggest provider of tourists if the 341.6-foot (104-metre) vessel, which runs between Port Angeles, Washington, and Victoria, cannot be accommodated at the new facility.
Burles said the Coho dropped off 440,000 passengers last year, 165,000 of which were “walk-ons” attracted by the affordable $60-round-trip fare.
The report, “The Vision for Belleville,” stated that the Coho’s parking-space requirements consume too-large a part of a 2.8-hectare (6.9-acre) site managed for the B.C. government by the Provincial Capital Commission. However, no alternative was offered.
Mohan Jawl, one of 14 members of the task force formed by Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe that published the report, said the inclusion of a Coho terminal was not economically feasible because no provincial money was available for the project.
One Canadian construction conglomerate, EllisDon, has come forward and said it would be interested in forming a consortium to put in a bid. John Schucht, EllisDon board chairman, is based in Victoria and he and his son own WayWell Development Inc., which is building the Radius commercial/residential property in downtown Victoria.
EllisDon has been involved in a number of prestigious and large projects worldwide: Canary Wharf in London, the Olympic Village Medical Clinic in Athens, SkyDome in Toronto and the host pavilion for Expo 86 in Vancouver, since renamed Canada Harbour Place.
Jawl said that two other groups have also expressed interest in putting in proposals.
Task Force chairman Terry Farmer said Partnerships B.C. is studying the recommendations to see if it can put together a private-public deal.
Farmer also said that it would take an additional $20 million to include a terminal for the side-loading Coho.
Victoria Hillside MLA Rob Fleming criticized the provincial government for not contributing to the much-needed Inner Harbour upgrade and said Tourism Minister Stan Hagen “has no problem finding $400 million for ballooning cost overruns for the Vancouver Convention Centre.”
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