A proposal has been put forth for the site of the former Lorne Hotel in downtown Comox that could see a commercial and residential mix on the site.
Mayor Paul Ives said a higher-density development with commercial on the lower floors and as many as 22 condo units on the top floors could be presented to council before the end of this year.
The site, on the corner of Comox Avenue and Port Augusta Street, has been vacant since an early-morning fire ravaged the building in February 2011.
The proposal, brought forth by developer Shawn Vincent, is for a five-storey building that would comply with the Town’s Official Community Plan and could allow for the type of density proposed, despite a restriction on building up to four storeys.
Ives said the developer would still be required to submit a rezoning application and ensure the building would comply to form, density and land-use requirements.
“(The application) would go through the full public process, and staff would work with the developer. We would have to work through issues with parking, form and character … and there would be a public hearing to get community input. There is a lot of interest within the community … (and the project) could serve as a catalyst of revitalization for downtown,” he added in an interview.
The Lorne Hotel, built in 1867, was the oldest licensed drinking establishment in the province and a popular gathering spot for the town’s downtown and the larger Comox Valley community.
Ives explained the project could serve as a pilot project for a possible downtown vitalization project with incentives for a developer to build.
Council recently directed staff to discuss the feasibility of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society marketing downtown development incentives, based on a Maple Ridge marketing program, presented in a report to council as a strategic priority with the goal of increasing density.
Some of the incentives could be based on what other Island communities have implemented, Ives noted, such as possible tax exemptions, facade improvement plans and reduction of development cost charges.
He added staff will work with the developer and he hopes an attempt at streamlining the application process will accelerate the timeframe so this and future projects can proceed.