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Three Nelson city projects still waiting for money

New library, Hall Street pier, Civic Centre upgrades were intended to create jobs in the pandemic
Only the bottom two floors and part of the basement level parking would covered by the city’s grant application for a new library. The financing and status of the top four floors of housing would still need to be financed by a public-private partnership. Illustration: Stanley Office of Architecture and City of Nelson

Three projects announced by the city last year as job-creators in the midst of pandemic unemployment – a new library near city hall, a new pier at the foot of Hall Street, and an upgrade of the Civic Centre – have all been delayed.

The proposed new library building is slated for city-owned property just north of city hall.

The city’s chief financial officer Colin McClure told the Nelson Star that the $13.9-million project, which envisioned four stories of new housing as part of the building, was dependent on the city receiving a $10-million grant from the provincial-federal Community, Culture, and Recreation Program.

The grant application was unsuccessful, McClure said, and the city has not so far been able to find another grant opportunity that would fit.

Mayor John Dooley told the Star that council knew the city would have to get a large grant, to which council would add some municipal funding. He said the city also planned from the beginning that the housing part of the building would require the city to partner with a private developer. But they needed to get a grant first.

“The grant would be the seed money to get going,” Dooley said. “It doesn’t mean the project has gone away. It’s still a project that I would like to see us retain our commitment to.”

Hall Street pier: back to the drawing board

The pier project would see the demolition of the existing pier, which the city says is structurally deteriorating, and the construction of a new structure with canopies and other civic amenities as well as a climate-controlled building that would house the historic Lady Bird speedboat.

The project, budgeted at $2.5 million, was to be funded by already-received grants of $1 million from the provincial Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) and $500,000 from the Columbia Basin Trust. The remaining $1,000,000 would be provided by the city.

The CERIP grant program was set up by the province to provide one-time infrastructure funding grants for shovel-ready projects to restart the economy in the pandemic.

The demolition of the existing pier at the foot of Hall Street and the installation of new steel pilings was to take place this past fall after the work was put out to tender.

“Those prices have come in significantly higher than we had budgeted, “McClure said. “And on top of that, the quote that we received on some of the canopies [to be constructed on the new deck] is significantly higher than what we had anticipated. So we’ve gone back to the drawing board.”

Dooley says the higher costs are due partly to the increased cost of building materials.

“We’ve had to sort of pull in our horns a little bit on the pier project,” he said. “We’re still going to go ahead with it, but it will probably take a different shape. We’re going to re-design it so we can squeeze it within the budget we have available to us.”

Civic Centre: a holding pattern

The $9.2 million project proposal for the city-owned Civic Centre comes in two parts.

The first is an energy retrofit of the very energy-inefficient building, built in 1935.

And also, the construction of a concourse and elevator on the front of the building would provide easy access for people and services to all parts of the building including the dance studio, gym, rink and the Civic Theatre.

McClure said the city is still waiting on the announcement of an $3.9 million Clean BC infrastructure grant application for the energy retrofit portion, which was supposed to be announced in the summer but was put on hold because of the federal election. He said the city is hoping to hear any day now.

He said the city was unsuccessful on its bid for the $1.1 million Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s COVID-19 resilience grant for the accessibility portion of the project.

“There is $1.4 million of city money committed for the project,” McClure said, “with the expectation that if successful on the Clean BC grant that the remaining funds required to undertake the project will need to be borrowed.”

Dooley said the Civic Centre and library projects were initiated partly because the federal and provincial government both asked municipalities across the country to have shovel-ready projects ready for granting opportunities.

“The Minister of Municipal Affairs at the time, Selina Robinson, met with all the mayors and said look, get your projects ready and be ready to submit them,” Dooley said.

He said the Civic Centre project would be eligible for future grants aimed at carbon reduction initiatives.

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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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