The multimillion-dollar Oceanfront development is set to transform Downtown Squamish, but what impacts will the project have on Whistler?
According to Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, the multi-use community will be "complementary" to the resort and region as a whole.
"It certainly diversifies the Sea to Sky corridor and the economic revitalization of Squamish," she said. "It finally puts the 'sea' in Sea to Sky and we're very supportive of this development."
More than 11 years in the making, the project moved one step closer to breaking ground last week after the oceanfront lands stretching from the northern tip of Howe Sound to the downtown core were sold to Newport Beach Developments Limited Partnership, a deal between local development company Bethel Lands Corporation and Texas-based Matthews Southwest.
Plans for the project include the construction of an oceanfront park, a wind sports beach, two boat launch areas, a sailing centre and a waterfront public walkway.
Wilhelm-Morden said the marine-focused recreational opportunities proposed will add another element to the Sea to Sky's tourism offerings.
"This is something that very much diversifies what's available in the corridor," she said.
In addition to the recreation areas, the sub-area plan envisions opportunities for light marine industry and an educational complex as well as residential, commercial and residential space.
Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman said it was essential whichever developer secured the bid maintains the multi-faceted vision for the ocean-side community.
"You could easily put all condos down there and probably ask a lot more for them, but we were steadfast in saying we want jobs down there, we want a third of it to be wind park, parkland, built environment, sailing centres, art centres, all those things," she explained. "Over the years both council and the community were resolute on that, and I think what we're going to see down there is game-changing."
The development is projected to provide more than 2,300 jobs at build-out, an opportunity Heintzman believes could lead to more resort residents commuting to Squamish for work.
With little in the way of new accommodation on the horizon compounding Whistler's housing struggles, Wilhelm-Morden recognized the Oceanfront project may entice some Whistlerites looking for affordable housing. But with no major population growth expected for the resort, she believes the impact will be minimal. "It's not as if we're growing and growing and growing and filling with all kinds of (projects) that require influxes of workers," she said. "I just don't see that scenario playing out."
In an effort to minimize traffic impacts on Highway 99, particularly in light of other major projects looming over Squamish, like the Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort, Heintzman said alternative transportation options are being explored.
"We are actively looking at other solutions, whether it's ferry service to Vancouver or a huge investment in the train infrastructure," she said. "Those huge infrastructure projects are probably a couple years away but we're actively looking at those now to see if we can alleviate some of the pressure on the highway."
Development of the oceanfront is expected to begin this year, with construction on a main road followed by initial work on the oceanfront park.