Highest & Best Use Study Marina Park Lands

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1 Executive Summary of Report MARCH 2006

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Introduction Study Process Highest And Best Use Program Concept Plan Public Area Animation Marina Park Implementation Strategy Next Steps...10 March 2006 Page i.

3 1. Introduction The goal of this Highest And Best Use Study is to determine how the Thunder Bay, Marina Park lands should be used over time to provide the best economic return and the greatest public benefit for residents and visitors to the city. Specifically, the goals and objectives established for the study were: Create a year-round destination; Extend City s urban core to water s edge and improve public and visual access to Lake Superior; Create a thematic link among waterfront public spaces through design features/techniques; Promote environmental sustainability; Protect, preserve and enhance natural and heritage features Provide for mixed land-use to attract workers, residents and visitors to the waterfront; Ensure waterfront development is compatible with neighbouring land-uses in terms of program, intensity and scale; Create jobs and increase economic activity; Use waterfront redevelopment as a catalyst to downtown revitalization Be a catalyst to increase tourism and tourism related industries such as Cruise Ships Ensure a balance between the highest and best use of land and buildings. The City of Thunder Bay s stated policy and objectives for the waterfront were considered in the formulation of this highest and best use program for the Marina Park lands. The recommended program is consistent with these objectives and is intended to realize the City s goals. The introduction of workspace, residential, hotel, retail and restaurant, cultural and public recreation uses onto these lands will have the effect of creating a year round attraction for local residents and visitors to the City. This proposed clustering of work, live and play uses is consistent with the best practices in Smart Growth across Canada and abroad. Combined with a sustainable development strategy which preserves, protects, enhances and celebrates the natural and built environment, the Marina Park redevelopment will be at the leading edge of contemporary waterfront developments. March 2006

4 2. Study Process Waterfront lands have been successfully reclaimed and redeveloped in many cities across Canada. Four Canadian cities with similar characteristics were studied by the consulting team to help to understand and illustrate the ingredients needed for successful waterfront re-development. The places studied included The Forks in Winnipeg (Manitoba); Kelowna Waterfront in Kelowna (British Columbia); Downtown Waterfront in Burlington (Ontario): and Bishop s Landing and Halifax Seawall in Halifax (Nova Scotia). A consistent pattern for re-development was found to exist in all the projects studied. These included: Year round activity is essential Critical mass and mixed land use ensures sustainability Parks, promenades and water activities encourage use Roads, parking and way-finding facilitate access / usage Visitor programs ensure economic growth Arts and culture play a pivotal role in successful waterfronts Waterfronts can be a catalyst to the redevelopment of nearby urban areas Pride of ownership by the community is key to success Cultural attractions, including ones geared to youth and family, year round recreation facilities, tourist amenities and hotel, and waterfront accommodation were found to be important program components within all the case study locations. March 2006 Page 2

5 3. Highest and Best Use program Market investigations for a broad range of potential uses for the subject lands were undertaken to identify those that have the potential to meet the re-development objectives and be economically viable on the Marina Park lands. Particular attention was paid to the ability to attract private sector investment in the realization of the program and to not duplicate program components that exist elsewhere in the City or surrounding region. For example, it was determined that there were already sufficient sport related recreation opportunities in the City. On the Marina Park Waterfront lands, potential markets for the following uses were identified: Residential and hotel; Retail and restaurant; Arts / cultural uses; Marina services; Cruise ship facilities; Superior Adventure Tour Train and Youth oriented recreation eg. skateboard park Although the total population in the City of Thunder Bay has not been growing, the attractiveness of the recreation facilities planned for Marina Park together with recent increased in-migration to the Thunder Bay CMA and a projected increase in residents within the seniors age category is estimated to be enough to generate a demand for 200 new residential housing units and related amenities on the Marina Park Waterfront lands. March 2006 Page 3

6 3. A Waterfront Attractions The present venue in the north end of Marina Park which is utilized for Canada Day celebrations, the Blues festival and other significant activities is recommended to be maintained as a Special Events Park. To improve access to the events park, the Waterfront Road would extend south of the expanded park area to Central Avenue; a new waterfront promenade would be extended north to the existing McVicar Creek trail and Red River Road - the north core s main street - would be extended east across Water Street and the railroad tracks in the form of wide at-grade pedestrian crossing. It is not recommended that Pier 3 should immediately be reclaimed as part of an animated Waterfront Promenade. Over time the existing boat slips on Pier 3 would be relocated to the tugboat basin to the south to permit float plane and tour and charter boat access to this Pier from the north. It is recommended that the existing pond adjacent to the Mariner s memorial be converted into a skating rink with a fire pit to animate the park during the winter months. A light and sound feature is proposed for Pier 3 to attract people to the east end of the Pier from downtown. The paved parking lots between Pier 3 and Red River Road are to be relocated south to permit the introduction of an events plaza at the Waterfront across from the existing CN station heritage building. March 2006 Page 4

7 4. 3. B Marina It is recommended that Marina services within the park be expanded to meet needs of the people on the waiting list for boat slips, provide a higher level of service to existing users and to attract other boaters to the park. In the future it is proposed that the fuel dock be lengthened, electrical services to existing boat slips be upgraded, additional boat slips be introduced where possible in the existing marina on both Pier 1 and 2, and the former tugboat basin south of the Wilson Street Headland be dredged to permit the construction of additional boat slips to take up the boats on the current waiting list, boats displaced for park development and to accommodate increased transient / visiting boats. 3. C Tour Train Introducing the proposed Superior Adventure Tour train and visitor terminal onto the Marina Park waterfront land would serve to attract a larger volume of both residents and visitors into the park and to celebrate the rich train-related heritage of the area. The increase in visitor volumes from such activities to the expanded park would increase the economic viability of the arts, cultural, restaurants and other commercial service uses. 3. D Skateboard Park The City of Thunder Bay Parks Division indicated that teenagers have expressed an interest in developing a skateboard / bmx facility of sufficient scale to host competitions and events, act as an attraction to youth in the region, and provide economic spinoffs in the park. Other municipalities (e.g. Markham, Kitchener, Mississauga and Richmond Hill) have recently developed skateboard parks to concentrate this activity within new special purpose, professionally designed facilities. Development of park amenities which target youth as well as families also sends a signal that Marina Park is intended to be an inclusive public space for residents and visitors of all ages. The existence of the public transit terminal on the west side of Water Street is a bonus in that it provides convenient access for teenaged transit riders to the proposed skate park facility. March 2006 Page 5

8 3. E Cultural Industries Evidence from the review of best practices and current research concludes that: Cultural industries are an important component of economic growth through employment creation, and tax revenues. Cultural industries include art, craft, design, publishing, recording, media, etc. These programs have the opportunity to benefit from adjacency with similar programs (clustering) and a downtown waterfront location. There is synergy with existing programs in the downtown, eg. Magnus Theatre, Arts Education Programs, Definitely Superior and other galleries which create critical mass. Promoting cultural industries will reinforce the Arts District theme proposed for Marina Park. Culture contributes to the attractiveness of Thunder Bay to knowledge based workers in the Creative Class seeking new places to live and work thereby encouraging new business location and assisting in employee recruitment. 3. F Arts Activities in the CN Station It is suggested that the concept of an incubator Waterfront Arts Centre be developed as a campus of facilities dispersed throughout the proposed development precinct at the foot of Red River Road in the form of rental and / or public space incorporated in the various contemplated developments in this area. As well, seasonal outdoor venues should also be considered in conjunction with the proposed outdoor public spaces. As an example, it is proposed that, where compatible with the existing building fabric and also with planning objectives, arts related occupancies should be encouraged for the existing CN Station. Possible uses might include, exhibit gallery space, sales gallery space, small-scale artisan studio space, Arts Exchange, office space etc. 3. G Lake Superior Place / Exploration Park Several current community initiatives are focussed on developing a public attraction facility on the waterfront (e.g. The Great Lakes Heritage Coast Centre, Canadian Grain Industry Activity Centre). It is recommended that the Pool Six Lands are a logical location for and can accommodate such a future development. The planning and design of such developments should reinforce and support the proposed use of the existing deep water dock for cruise and museum ship docking and could possibly extend from and incorporate the existing Pool Six office building. They should preserve and address the proposed boardwalk extension from the marina and the Red River Road development node and should incorporate and extend the outdoor interpretive nature of the exploration park concept as an integral component of such a facility. Potential public attraction facilities for the Pool Six lands should also celebrate the special and unique sense of place found on these lands by incorporating, as a significant thematic focus, the articulation of the broader historical, social, economic and ecological importance of Lake Superior and in particular of the importance of the Thunder Bay waterfront. The study recommends an Exploration Park; a themed attraction which would offer a regional and even national draw. The Park would feature a series of indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits which would celebrate Thunder Bay. It would be a year round attraction, offer opportunities for partnership with educational institutions an offer March 2006 Page 6

9 opportunities for research and innovation. Discussion on the future development of potential attractions and feature elements of Lake Superior Place should be promoted with the various groups organizing around this initiative. March 2006 Page 7

10 4. Concept Plan The concept plan for Marina Park presented in the Study is an illustrative tool intended to graphically portray the collective vision of the proposed highest and best use program. It sets out the physical and spacial relationships presented in the proposed program and addresses vehicle and pedestrian connectivity to and through the site. The concept plan provides a structural framework that defines the development opportunities and public spaces identified in the Study. It is intended as a guideline only with sufficient flexibility to ensure that the resulting master plan can be adapted to respond to program changes as the development is undertaken. The concept plan provides an effective means of understanding and evaluating the physical and financial feasibly of the proposed highest and best use program. March 2006 Page 8

11 5. Public Area Animation A program of public area animation is recommended for the new Marina Park. The program would feature free public activities across the site including performances, exhibitors and special events. March 2006 Page 9

12 6. Marina Park Implementation Strategy Next Steps The highest and best use study for Marina Park recommends a series of tasks which must be addressed to realize the redevelopment. The identified tasks included: Amendments to the City s Official Plan and Zoning by-law Updates to the existing Class Environmental Assessment for Marina Park Drive and additional transportation analysis and plan development Modifications to address the supply of on-site parking Site Remediation on brownfields lands which are part of the expanded Marina Park site Planning for site services for proposed development areas in the park Public sector infrastructure initiatives Private sector development opportunities and procurement options Establishment of a Marina Park Services Board to oversee implementation of the plan and ongoing operation of the Park. The next steps are summarized in the study and broken out by year 2006, 2007, and In conclusion the study identifies the following key success factors against which the success of this redevelopment initiative for Marina Park can be evaluated: 1. Marina Park is a year round destination 2. City s urban core is linked to the water s edge 3. There is easy access to and views of the water 4. A thematic link is created among waterfront public spaces 5. A healthy mixed use neighbourhood evolves 6. Environmental sustainability is achieved 7. Natural and built heritage is protected, preserved and enhanced J:\10664\10.0 Reports\PTRmarinawaterfront doc\ \TN March 2006 Page 10

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