The development company planning to turn the tiny seaside community of Britannia Beach into a more vibrant commercial centre is inching towards its goal.
Before any development can take place, Vancouver's MacDonald Development Corp. has to work with the province to fix two dams and build a berm above the site to protect the lowlands in case of a flood or landslide.
"The provincial government has done a scope of work and they're putting that scope of work out now for tenders for design and build and cost for the two dams up above - Tunnel Dam and Middle Dam," said Bill Baker, managing director of business development for MacDonald Development Corp. "Once the contracts have been accepted, we will start work on the berm."
Unlike the project's initial stages, which were met with resistance at multiple levels, Baker said all the necessary partners are working together to get the project done. His company expects to make major strides in heritage building upgrades as early as next spring, though no occupancy permits will be issued prior to the completion of all slide prevention and dam work.
"The province, the SLRD has been terrific. Every time we have a meeting it's a working meeting, not a fighting meeting - it's quite a change from a few years ago," he said.
Once the work on the dams is under way, MacDonald will install a berm on the hillside above the town to control erosion and sedimentation by reducing and redirecting surface runoff. The company still has a number of hurdles to clear but Baker said nothing looks to be a major barrier to the project.
"Once you get all these contracts out, we still have to go through fisheries and wildlife and all the environmental impacts," he said. "The fisheries one is the most frustrating because there are no fish but we still have to do due diligence, including navigable waterways because kayakers use a lot of that water even though it's dangerous - they sneak up there and go down there so we have to deal with all of those in due course. It's just one of the steps we have to take and going through government can take its time but in general everything is going forward at better than a glacial pace."
Baker said he has already received significant interest from prospective tenants in Britannia's commercial area, which will retain its historical esthetic but gain a gas station and drive-through restaurant. The town's well-known General Store will be moved 15 feet to the south to accommodate the new berm. All heritage buildings in the downtown core will be reset on proper foundations and brought up to code.
"We are working with our existing tenants to find out what they'd like to see happen first, then we'll be working on the commercial area that will come out," continued Baker. "The end result will be... I use the word comfortable rather than over the top touristy. That will probably be our first priority - establishing the retail space and how to make it work without being a tourist trap."
The last landslide at Britannia Beach was in 1921 and killed 37 people, some of whom were never recovered.