With hopes of bringing more locals and visitors to the Comox waterfront and connecting them to downtown, residents had an opportunity Wednesday to view preliminary designs for the Marina Park vitalization plan.
The open house featured a chance to talk with the designers and consultants, view schematic drawings and a miniature replica of the design and marina.
“We’ve had a stakeholder review, and what is important is that the waterfront will improve business for the community at large,” explained architect Steve Cohlmeyer to Comox council prior to the meeting.
“The park is beautiful, but a bit under-used.”
Cohlmeyer added he hopes his design will not only make it easier, more accessible and more inviting for the public to get to the park and waterfront, but also to increase the reasons to visit.
“We want to make it a place to enjoy and to foster economic growth and increase social well-being.”
With a Phase 1 cost of $1.6 million, funding would be split 25 per cent by the Town of Comox ($400,000), an application to Island Coastal Economic Trust (for $400,000) and 50 per cent by an application to Western Economic Diversification.
Cohlmeyer described in his presentation he envisions developing more of a connection to downtown, by making both the west and east sides of the park more inviting. His vision includes creating transition zones and rest stops, along with making more openings through the downtown buildings towards the park, “and crescendo at the gazebo.”
He describes the area from the boat launch ramp to fisherman’s wharf as “the village” and said there could be key anchors developed near the current washroom and gazebo to create a main public square with a fountain, small commercial space and two small buildings (1,100 square feet each), capable of holding 50 people sitting, or 70 people standing, which would be open-concept and not obstruct the view corridor.
Cohlmeyer explained the area would host small-scale vendors and the current facility for Compass Adventures would shift to a building adjacent to the boat ramp, and would feature a sloping roof which would act as a grandstand for spectators.
He added he would like to see a covered kayak storage facility nearby.
On the east side, he said there would be a commercial building with 5,000 square feet of space, but Cohlmeyer added he could see it being created though private sector investment.
As for the park, he noted some key issues would be moving the playground towards the waterfront – he explained its current location is too isolated – and creating a stage with a permanent roof in its place.
“We would see the village be the main plaza … it would become a calm, legible environment.”
Economist Jamie Vann Struth explained the economic impact of the project could have on the town.
Both temporary and ongoing impacts are projected to increase employment visits from marine tourists and increase spending, he said.
“The preliminary estimates show there could be between 20 and 30 new local jobs, and two million dollars in new local spending,” he added.
Town chief administrative officer Richard Kanigan told council much of the vitalization information and plans will be available through the town’s website, and the package will be submitted for the ICE-T grant by mid-October.