On the embattled Nelson waterfront
There are few patches of land in this community as heavily tread upon in the political arena as the former Kootenay Forest Products site on our waterfront.
Since industry packed up and left in the mid-80s, the ultimate fate of that prime piece of real estate on the West Arm has been an almost 30-year constant. On Monday night at City Hall, another tiny chapter in the history of the city’s east waterfront started to be written.
For 10 years the mill site sat as a scar of our past. As the community rose out of its post-industry glory days to a more tourism-based town, visitors who drove over the Nelson Bridge could only wonder why such a prime piece of land sat empty.
In the mid-1990s, Vancouver-based Millennia Corporation blew into the West Kootenay with promises of transforming the land into a bustling neighbourhood with 350 units of housing of all sorts. Then-mayor Gary Exner brimmed with excitement as he envisioned the transformation of the waterfront and the spur to the economy it would provide. Many heated public meetings were held as the isolationists in the community panicked.
The beleaguered BC economy of the late-90s doomed Millennia’s plans and for a few years all hope was lost.
Out of the ashes, new plans were eventually put together for less ambitious development of the land. More public meetings were held and more controversy ensued.
Today the former mill site stands as a testament to how it probably should have been done in the first place: with modesty and shaped by the realistic needs of the community. With an impressive mix of housing that ranges from high-end, single family homes to assisted living seniors housing, the neighbourhood continues to evolve.
The original Nelson Landing proposal fell into the overly-ambitious category. On the surface, the plans unveiled Monday night seem more realistic.
Once again public input will be sought and once again Nelson will respond with passion that comes from love of community. In the end, we hope the finished product will be something worthy of our waterfront.