Public offers feedback on Qualicum Beach ‘Bus Garage’ property plans

Residents got a first look at what could become of the controversial Bus Garage/Qualicum Commons property — as two plans were presented by Vancouver Island University students depicting hypothetical renderings of the site.

The plans aren’t set in stone, and it’s not one or the other, but feedback from the open house on March 3 will guide VIU students in their recommendations to Qualicum Beach council on what they should do with the property.

Both plans allow for commercial space, but no specific businesses were pointed out. In mid-January, it was announced the town had tentatively agreed to an offer from Naked Naturals Whole Foods Ltd., to purchase the town-owned land. However, after feedback from the public, the town decided to extend its consultation period.

The students will gather the feedback they received, through written comment and voting on aspects of the properties, to council in the spring.

Alison Garnett, a student at VIU who is doing a master’s in community planning, created ‘Plan A’ for the site with her team.

Their plan focuses more heavily on residential use, while the other team has more green space. The plan has 20 rowhouses and six six-plexes, which would have their own parking. However, this plan does include a community garden and orchard and a multi-sport court.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Proposed $2.5M sale of bus garage property in Qualicum Beach postponed

“Basically what we’ve got is we’ve kept TOSH, because that was an important feature, we’ve added more commercial buildings along Fern,” Garnett said. “Towards the intersection of Fern and Memorial, we’ve added a town square that would be animated by cafe kiosks, a playground, seating, could allow for informal or formal gathering.”

Her team also chose to rebuild the Qualicum Commons building.

“A two-storey, tighter footprint type building, we would ideally accommodate all of the existing organizations in that building,” she said.

The other team’s plan has much more open space, and proposes to keep the existing Qualicum Commons building.

“We’ve really wanted to maintain green space,” said community planning masters student Celina Fletcher, who worked on ‘Plan B’ with her team from VIU. “Another one was connectivity, so we have a lot more pathways integrated in there, so people can actually use that green space, so there’s walking paths looping around, there’s also a big plaza space.”

There’s about the same amount of parking on this site, and some townhouses and mixed-use apartments.

Luke Sales, director of planning for Qualicum Beach, saw the plans for the first time at the open house.

“The purpose of the meeting today is to get the public’s feedback on two fairly different design options, so we’re hoping that people come and tell the students what they like about one, what they like about the other,” he said. Maybe they’re not seeing something on both that they’d like to see, so they’re here mostly to provoke discussion.”

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