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The sprawling Belleville terminal property — which includes lands on which passengers and cars line up to board and depart from the Coho as well as docks and customs buildings to the west for passenger ferries from Seattle and elsewhere — are discussed in a new staff report to the City Council encouraging redevelopment pursuits.
Revitalization of Inner Harbour, overlooked by the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings and serving as a gateway to downtown, has been a political thorn at Victoria City Hall and on the British Columbia provincial level for many years.
In addition to the ferry landing areas, Ship Point across the waterway from the Coho dock and the lower Wharf Street parking lot toward the Johnson Street drawbridge are targeted in this week’s staff report under review by Victoria council members.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said consultation will start soon, with the city intent on finding opportunities for the harbor that generate wide support.
“It sort of sets that vision that everyone agrees on: home for the provincial government, home for our cultural and community amenities, a working harbor, public-realm access to the water,” Fortin told the Victoria Times Colonist for its Tuesday edition.
The report says each of the three Inner Harbour areas has “strategic significance” and the potential to enhance tourism, transportation, downtown vitality and economic progress, the Times Colonist reported.
It doesn’t specify how the Belleville Terminal complex, including the Coho dock, would be incorporated into a revitalized waterfront project.
But any redevelopment would not be expected to displace the Coho, as had been suggested in 2007 by a harbor development task force under a previous mayoral administration and unrelated to the latest effort.
The 2007 task force of city and regional politicos and business representatives suggested that the Coho and other ferries land in Esquimalt Harbour, about 5 miles northwest of downtown Victoria, so the Belle-ville Street property could become the site of a high-rise hotel on the waterfront.
That proposal soon was quashed by City Hall amid outcry from Victoria business and tourist interests as well as Port Angeles City Hall and North Olympic Peninsula political and tourism officials.
As many as 400,000 people ride the Coho between Port Angeles and Victoria annually, according to Black Ball Ferry Line.
Thousands more pass through the Belleville Terminal on the Victoria Clipper passenger ferries from Seattle as well as seasonal foot ferries from Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C.
The latest study, with an estimated budget of $100,000 ($90,000 U.S.), is aimed at identifying how renewal should take place around the Inner Harbour, Fortin said.
Broad-based public input is needed from landowners, business people, First Nations and individual citizens, the city staff report said.
Among the project’s objectives are maintaining a working harbor, improving public spaces and completing David Foster Way, a pedestrian trail along the waterfront named after the noted Victoria musician, composer and philanthropist.
The project also would encompass the Inner Harbour district of downtown bound by Quebec, Superior, Blanshard, Humboldt and Wharf streets.
The city realizes that funding might not be available right away, “but we recognize that if we have clear community consensus around these sites, that is attractive to senior levels of government,” Fortin said.
“This is a way that we can advance opportunities when funding might come about.”
Public meetings will be held in Victoria during the next three months.
“The goal is to define the vision for the future,” Fortin said.
“It’s about getting to shovel-ready projects.”