VICTORIA – What’s going to be taking shape in Victoria’s Inner Harbour in the next few months is so much more than a marina and a pair of mid-sized office buildings. What’s actually taking shape is another key piece of the city’s ongoing effort to become a world-class tourist destination. Decades in the dreaming and designing stage, the $24 million Victoria International Marina will consist of a pair of high end business centres (6,000 square feet each) and a 28 slip marina designed to accommodate yachts of up to 150 feet in length.
“In reality this project was originally conceived more than 30 years ago. Back then Robert Evans purchased 16 acres of the Songhees land from the province and the city, essentially old industrial land on the north side of the Blue Bridge,” explained Craig Norris, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Community Marine Concepts, the owner and developer of the Victoria International Marina project.
“In about 1985 they conceived a plan for the land that included a marina and a bit of a town centre. It has literally taken this long to get shovels into the ground on this project, so we’re very excited to see it finally start to take shape.”
Having faced an epic amount of regulatory roadblocks over the years the project’s current developers (Evans has now left the project) are confident the first yachts will be tying their multi-million dollar hulls to the marina’s slips by next spring. Over time segments of the original property were sold off to other developers, land that today is home primarily to various high rise condominium towers.
In its original form the International Marina would have involved 52 slips, a scale of project that failed to receive City Hall approval. The re-imagined and redesigned concept involves two buildings with a total of just over 12,000 square feet of rentable space and a pared down 28 slip marina. “The slips will range in size from 65 feet to 150 feet, the reason being that under our Transport Canada permit we’re only allowed to bring vessels larger than 65 feet across the harbor runway,” Norris explained.
“We’d gladly take smaller boats but we can’t. We’ve essentially been forced to use the over 65 foot boats as our market as that’s what the marina was built to accommodate and service.”
Currently under construction at Blue Water Systems Limited’s facility in Delta the marina slips will be towed into place in stages and should be installed over the summer months. Prior to the beginning of the construction phase of the project some 23,000 cubic meters of material were dredged from the seafloor to facilitate the transformation of an industrial site into a world class moorage.
“This is a prime location in the middle of Victoria harbor so we expect to see a mixture of local yachts and transient vessels make use of the facility. We don’t want to become a boat parking lot. We expect it to be used by vessels that come and go,” he said.
Concerning the land based elements of the project major construction of the two buildings is expected to begin this summer. Geotechnical testing for the outer breakwater was completed in early July, so development of the marina portion can also now commence. Final construction of the project is scheduled for March 31, 2017. The east building is already fully leased out, including with an as yet unnamed local restaurant, while tenants for the west building are currently being sought.
For Norris the International Marina will be yet another world class tourist destination for visitors, much like the Bear Mountain Golf Course and Butchart Gardens. For him projects of this caliber elevate the entire city’s status as a destination and help to put the Greater Victoria area more solidly on the world’s stage.
“We want people to come in and experience Victoria. That’s when they’re coming in and spending money. That’s what brings vibrancy to the city. That’s what brings economic development to the locality, that’s what we want,” Norris said.
“There are a lot of people who want to come here but they don’t know the West Coast. They’ve heard about its beauty but there’s no infrastructure for them. Our purpose statement is all about creating remarkable experiences, that’s what this facility is all about.”