A commercial hub of retail, restaurants, hotels and housing.
It’s how Trilogy Group president/CEO John Evans introduced CAYET — a 715-acre mixed-use development at the junction of the Inland Island Highway and the Comox Valley Parkway — at a Tuesday launch of the project at North Island College.
Evans and business partner Tom Johnston began searching for an area to build the project about 10 years ago. They considered the Okanagan, which was attracting attention from Alberta developers, and the southern part of the Island, where affordability was an issue.
Which prompted them to look north of Nanaimo.
“We believe that we found one of the most developable pieces of real estate in British Columbia,” Evans said, noting the acreage formerly owned by Comox Timber no longer interested the company.
Trilogy will spend about $110 million preparing the property into salable land.
Evans lauded Cumberland for annexing property on the east side of the highway when it was put through. Unlike other fronting municipalities, the Village did not sign a memorandum to not develop near the highway.
“Which is why you have effectively no development,” Evans said. “The opportunity for CAYET is that it becomes the hub, it becomes the entry to not only the Comox Valley but to north central Vancouver Island.”
The project received mixed reviews when it was first introduced. A 2006 public hearing drew about 200 people bearing a petition with 780 signatures against the project, but only 25 people attended another hearing three years later.
“We’re looking forward to getting started so that we can have that tax base improvement,” said Cumberland Mayor Fred Bates, who feels CAYET will not detract from the downtown core because it won’t be visible from the Village. “I think it gives us a better part of both worlds, where we have this community within the community that will have its commercial and residential base, which will greatly improve our opportunities to repair our old infrastructure, and maybe even get some new enhancements.”
The project has various components. CAYET Discovery is anchored by the Coast Visitor Centre, and will include a retail and educational component. CAYET Traders is commercial space for automotive and mid-box retail, with an off-ramp to be constructed to the south. CAYET Commons, a 400,000 square-foot entertainment component that includes housing and possibly a destination resort or casino, will be across the street from Discovery. The intention is to draw people from the south and the Lower Mainland. Zoning allows for more than 1,300 residential units.
“This is not simply a subdivision,” said Evans, noting housing styles will include studio apartments, townhouses and single family homes.
Residential lands extend to the edge of Maple Lake.
Permitting for CAYET was a five-year process. Trilogy expects to begin tendering in the first quarter of next year.
While a project of this magnitude takes years to develop, Evans suggests the Valley will experience significant growth in the coming decade.
“CAYET is deeply connected to place,” said Evans, noting the name loosely derives from aboriginal language meaning water, lake and mountains. “The project has been developed from a sustainability cusp. We believe people will pay a premium for sustainability.”
Three creek systems are situated throughout the property.
“Our ability to respect that is paramount in the work that we do, and in fact results in only 50 per cent of the real estate able to be developed.”
Trilogy has signed a benefits agreement with the K’ómoks First Nation.