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Squamish unveils plan to revitalize its waterfront



By Care Ogilvie

Squamish’s dream of a developed waterfront with parks, hotels, businesses, and living space is one step closer to reality.

This week a concept plan of the area was outlined to Squamish council and others by the Fraser Basin Council, a non-profit group dedicated to sustainable development, hired to look at options for the area.

"There are all kinds of good things in the plan but the exciting thing is the pubic is getting back access to the waterfront," said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland.

The plan grew out of a charette proposed by the FBC along with the UBC Sustainable Communities Program and the District of Squamish.

The charrette process brought together people who have a stake in the community to design the new development.

During the process a team of community members, decision-makers, cross-disciplinary specialists, and designers came together to define a shared vision or plan for the area.

The plan is the culmination of about a year of intense work by community volunteers, experts, and different levels of governments, including the Squamish Nation.

It’s hoped shovels will be in the ground by 2005 with substantial completion in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Olympic plans call for a ferry terminal in Squamish, which can be used as an alternative way to transport spectators part of the way from Vancouver to Whistler and back.

The plan will be financed by both public and private money.

"We have had all kinds of interest from some very big and powerful developers and very good developers too," said Sutherland, adding that there is still room for consultation and it’s likely that plans will be tweaked as deadlines approach.

The plan really marks the beginning of a true transition period for the town, which has traditionally been reliant of logging for its economy.

Today it is moving toward a new future, said Sutherland.

"This is one of those symbolic victories as one of the changing times for Squamish," he said.

As well as a hotel and convention centre the plans call for a marina, many public parks, different types of businesses, housing, and space for arts and cultural activities.

The process got a needed boost last year when the province handed over part of the waterfront to the district of Squamish. Local council created the Squamish Waterfront Development Corporation to handle future development.

The Squamish Downtown Waterfront Initiative will be guided by sustainability and "smart growth" principles that promote integrated consideration of economic, environmental and social objectives in an open and inclusive process.