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Developing Delta: New look for Ladner Waterfront
One of the potential development jewels for Delta lies in the revitalization plans for Ladner's waterfront.
An historical and picturesque fishing village at one time, the waterfront has since fallen into a state of disrepair that has few buildings left.
Delta Council has been working on a plan for revitalizing the waterfront for at least a decade, according to Delta's chief administrative officer George Harvie.
"It's my job to bring matters before council and strategies for council's consideration," he said. "So, we developed a strategy with the waterfront which council worked on, modified, and adopted as a strategic plan."
The first step was made when Mayor Lois Jackson formed the Downtown Ladner Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Committee in 2009, which extensively consulted with residents and businesses and came back in March of this year to offer the public a glimpse at the plan.
The second phase involved undertaking market analysis from Quay Property Management to submit a detailed proposal for redevelopment and what that would require. That analysis found an investor-driven plan would be more likely to succeed than one financed by the municipality.
In order to spur private investment along Chisholm Street, Delta announced in May they will sell four Ladner waterfront properties and their water lot leases. Among those buildings was the Seven Seas, acquired in 2008 with money received from Port Metro Vancouver's third berth application. The properties were initially purchased for a marketplace but the plan was abandoned.
Selling the properties was not done without controversy. Many people disliked the idea of selling off a piece of Ladner's heritage.
But Harvie said although Delta considered leasing the properties to tenants, it was unlikely developers would be attracted to such a proposal.
"Nobody's going to invest with a lease," he said. "And that's one of the reasons we changed the airport to a 99-year lease."
The sale of the buildings joins a slew of bylaws that will all attempt to lure private sector investors to the waterfront, including municipal property tax freezes and the waiving of development fees.
Tax freezes have been used successfully in other projects, said Harvie, such as the redevelopment of the land where Ocean Trailer is located in Tilbury Industrial Park, and the new 37-storey high rise in North Delta.
"It was only in the last five to eight years that the Local Government Act changed to allow municipalities to do this," he said. "So, that's worked very well for us."
Harvie emphasized that a tax freeze doesn't mean the municipality won't collect money on the property.
"It's easier for [developers] to do their financing and provides economic incentives for them. The tax bearer isn't out of pocket, and we do recapture those funds very quickly."
The Official Community Plan (OCP) for the area has been amended to clarify the manner in which the waterfront will be developed. Attention will be paid to sustainable design, pedestrian access to the waterfront, and the preservation and expression of Ladner’s cultural character and heritage.
"I'm constantly looking at ways that we can improve, while providing incentives for growth within areas that are supported by our OCP," said Harvie.
Although the waterfront revitalization is a small development on the grand scale of things in Delta, it will "create a spark" for Ladner's businesses through tourism, he added.
"You can have the best plan in the world but if it's not going to be attractive to the development community it's just going to sit on the shelf. So, it's trying to find that balance between getting that spark for development while at the same time improving the character that mayor and council and the community want to see for Ladner."