Editorial: A grand vision for Ogden Point

Ogden Point is an incredible opportunity, a blank canvas. Let’s be sure we paint a masterpiece on that canvas. The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has been developing the Ogden Point master plan for several years. As part of that process, it has been seeking public input on the future of the 12-hectare waterfront facility. Through an online survey, the GVHA has gathered suggestions from the public on amenities and developments for the area.

Survey respondents offered a wide range of suggestions and 175 people came to an open house at Ogden Point’s Pier B last week.

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“This is a really good indication of people’s level of interest in what happens down here,” said Ian Robertson, chief executive officer of the GVHA.

People should be interested. Few cities in the world have such an opportunity as we have at Ogden Point. It is a showpiece tract of land with spectacular views, nearby amenities and enough space to see a variety of dreams become reality. The potential is almost limitless.

Ogden Point has long been a key component in the region’s economy. Its economic role grew when the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 brought with it the expectation of increasing shipping traffic to and from Vancouver Island. A massive breakwater was built to shelter the port from heavy seas and the piers were built to accommodate deepwater ships. Lumber and prairie grain were shipped from the port. A fish-processing and cold-storage facility was built at the site in the late 1920s.

Many vestiges of Ogden Point’s industrial past have been erased. A fire in 1977 destroyed Canadian National Railway’s 140,000-square-foot warehouse that had been built in 1911. In 1978, the grain elevator on Pier North B was dismantled. Shipments of lumber stopped in 1984 when Sooke Forest Products went bankrupt. In 1987, all remaining rail tracks were removed. In 1990, the five-storey fish-packing plant was demolished.

But Ogden Point is still important to the economy. It has been key in developing Victoria as Canada’s busiest cruise-ship port of call. In 2015, 227 cruise-ship visits brought more than 500,000 visitors to the region.

That traffic presents excellent opportunities. Cruise-ship terminals elsewhere in the world offer quality shopping and activities within close walking distance of ships. Ogden Point has room for an assortment of stores and restaurants, but they should be unique to Victoria, not a slice of Generica, that bland assortment of franchises that can be found anywhere on the continent.

Any amenities and attractions at Ogden Point should be planned with year-round traffic in mind, not just the five-month cruise season. Victorians love their waterfront, and Ogden Point presents opportunities to further nurture that love affair.

Development should include links to the ocean and our maritime heritage (it would be a good spot to build a new home for the Maritime Museum of B.C.). It should embrace the natural beauty that lies in abundance all around us. A strong partnership with First Nations is a given. Everything should be pedestrian-friendly, and should physically connect to paths along Dallas Road as well as the David Foster Inner Harbour Pathway.

Perhaps Ogden Point cannot become everything to everybody, but it can come awfully close.

Dreams should not exceed reality, but we should not be afraid to dream big. Stand at the end of the breakwater and take in the ocean, the sky, the mountains. It’s utterly magnificent. The vision for Ogden Point’s future should be no less.

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