New Westminster Continues to Clean Up it's act

It seems everyday we are hearing another project introduced in New Westminster to make the city a btter place.  Recently the City has amped up it's efforts to aquire all the property between Begbie and Eighth on the North side of Columbia. The City plans to put up a Recreation centre.


Click HERE to view the full article in the Royal City Record


The City of New Westminster is moving to expropriate several parcels of land for the future downtown multi-use civic facility.

The city believes that the site, located on Columbia Street between Eighth and Begbie streets, is the best location for the $35-million multi-use civic facility.

"The site selection process examined 13 potential sites in the downtown, including city-owned property, to find an optimum location," said Lisa Spitale, the city's director of development services. "The final selection of the site was made due to its physical size and location, and it ensures accessibility by residents while boosting downtown revitalization at the same time."

On Monday, the city announced it was beginning expropriation proceedings to secure the land parcels, after several months of negotiations with the property owners.

Acting mayor Jonathan Cote said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a multi-use civic facility.

"It was critically important we find the right site," he said. "The city only gets one chance."

Cote said the project will help advance the city's downtown revitalization efforts and provide a new state-of-the-art facility that meets the needs of current residents, visitors and new arrivals to the Royal City. He said the location is perfect - fronting on to Columbia Street and with ready access to transit, Hyack Square, the Quay and the future Westminster Pier Park.

"That whole Eighth and Columbia (corner) becomes very interesting," he said. "It is a gateway into the downtown."

Jim Lowrie, the city's acting city administrator, said the city has been negotiating with four different property owners since April, but hasn't been able to come to terms regarding the purchase of the sites.

"It is the nature of the game. They each have varying tenants," he said. "It is an assembly of four parcels of land. It complicates it somewhat."

In total, the development parcel would make up about 40,000 square feet, including a portion of Alexander Street that would be closed. The site would be bordered by Eighth and Begbie Streets, from Columbia Street to below the SkyTrain guideway.

Lowrie said the city sent letters to affected tenants Monday informing them of the city's desire to acquire the sites within 60 days. The city won't be starting construction of the building until 2011.

"They have got over a year to look at alternate locations," he said. "We, the city, will be helping them in any way we can though our economic development officer."

Lowrie believes there's room for further movement in negotiations in the next 60 days.

"If the property owner feels what the city is offering as far as fair market value is not appropriate, they can take the matter to Supreme Court," he said. "The city is willing to pay fair market value."

Lowrie said the city wants to finalize the detailed design and community consultation in 2010 and begin construction in early 2011.

"We want to pay market value for the property," he stressed. "Property owners are protected under the Expropriation Act of B.C."

Cote said the city legally isn't entitled to go above market value, as that's considered aiding a property owner.

"We need to move forward on this project," he said. "We need to begin the public consultation process."

Cote said the City of Nanaimo had to expropriate about a dozen properties to build its civic centre. He said it's not uncommon for expropriation to occur when large projects are proposed in downtowns.

The new multi-use civic facility is being funded by development assistance compensation funds as a result of casino development within city limits. It will be approximately 80,000 square feet and may include amenities such as flexible theatre space, arts studios, recreation space, archives and museum facilities, meeting rooms, banquet and convention meeting space.

While the city has consulted with citizens about community needs through various planning initiatives, Cote said the city is eager to start consulting with residents about what they'd like to see in a civic centre.

"That is going to be able to move ahead now," he said. "We wanted to wait until we had a location."


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