Pace of building at Oyster Bay expected to double

Interest from tenants and investors in the planned Oyster Bay community on First Nations land near Ladysmith is slicing the projected completion time in half.

The Stz’uminus First Nation is looking at a decade, rather than 20 years, to complete the project, said Ray Gauthier, chief executive of the band-owned Coast Salish Development Corp. which is leading the development.

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“We didn’t think we were going to have this much success this quickly,” Gauthier said Monday.

The corporation is partnering with investors to roll out a mixed-use community on 65 acres of First Nations land on either side of the TransCanada highway. One chunk fronts Oyster Bay in Ladysmith Harbour.

Plans call for a range of housing types, an assisted living seniors facility, an 81-room hotel, various retail and commercial properties and recreational space.

The projected population of Oyster Bay will be about 1,200 and there will be close to 200,000 square feet of commercial space.

Gauthier said there is pent-up demand for residential and commercial space.

Stz’uminus First Nation includes four reserves of just over 2,900 acres and a population of about 1,300. Oyster Bay is about four kilometres north of Ladysmith.

The project’s goal is to help the First Nation be more self-sufficient, Gauthier said.

During construction, from start to finish, it is predicted that Oyster Bay will have been responsible for 600 jobs, including temporary construction work, he said.

Once finished, about 300 to 400 permanent jobs will be created, with about half going to band members, Gauthier said. The development is also anticipated to foster training in a number of areas as it unfolds.

Investor-partners are needed for the development to fully take shape. The band has land, water and sewer services and investors have expertise, Gauthier said.

Oyster Bay is starting with commercial development.

A 10,000 square-foot band-owned commercial building housing a branch of the Ladysmith and District Credit Union, which opened in Dec. 2016, has opened on the west side of the site.

The First Nations Health Authority will move in soon, taking up 3,600 square feet. Another 1,200 square feet in that building is available to rent.

A 15,000-square-foot commercial space that will hold a 4,000-square-foot private liquor store will start next. It will also be owned by the band. The liquor store is aiming to open in January, Gauthier said. Again, there’s room for more tenants.

Construction began in April on a Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, slated to open in May 2018. Gauthier said it will have 81 suites. It is being located to the west side of the highway to take advantage of the busy traffic to attract guests.

The band will own 83 per cent of the hotel with Masterbuilt Hotels of Calgary owning the rest and operating the property, Gauthier said.

Next on the agenda is an assisted living project. Gauthier said he is in talks with three groups to build and operate the enterprise.

Most of the housing will be built under a strata plan as condominiums or townhouses, Gauthier said. Some single-family homes are planned as well.

The band is hoping to attract businesses, ones that are responsible and environmentally friendly. Gauthier suggests high-tech as one example.

There are also two service stations on either side of the highway through the Oyster Bay property which are owned and operated by the band. Each service station includes an Oyster Bay store, Gauthier said. A revenue-sharing agreement is in place with a Tim Hortons restaurant on the west side of the highway. An A&W restaurant is on the east side.

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