Havn Experiences is hoping to build a floating sauna barge at Ship Point, with the hopes to bring more people to the area year-round.
The sauna, named Havn, will have the footprint of a large ship and will float on the water next to existing docks on the north side of Ship Point.
Nicholas Van Buren, CEO of Havn Experiences says the idea came up when he and a friend were trying to think of ideas for a business in the area.
“I’ve been in Victoria my whole life. So I’ve been watching all the things that are happening down there, and a friend of mine and I were like, ‘what can we do here? Can we build another floating bar that’s actually opened in the winter?'” he asked. “And then we started looking to other cities that have successfully brought vibrancy to their inner harbours and revitalized post-industrial sites.”
The pair found examples of floating saunas in Montreal, Oslo, and Helsinki and thought something similar would be a good addition to Ship Point.
In order to build the floating sauna, the area will have to be rezoned to allow this use. The first step in the process was to engage with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, since it owns the property.
Ian Robertson, president and CEO of the GVHA says the proposal came through when a request for businesses was put out, and he thought this would be a good addition for the space.
“We saw it as being quite unique, we saw it as an opportunity that would appeal not just to tourists, but to residents,” Robertson said. “And we saw this as an opportunity to activate the harbour 12 months of the year.”
After the GVHA signed off on the plans, Van Buren says the next step is to go through the city’s rezoning process, which he says can take nine months or longer.
Van Buren says a barge has been purchased for this and will be refurbished to create the sauna.
The proposed space will include four saunas, three hot pools, two freshwater cold pool, one ocean water pool, indoor and outdoor spaces to relax and socialize, and flex spaces for events.
The ocean water pool will be on a lower deck, and Van Buren says this is a revised idea after an initial idea was determined to not work.
“The original plan was to have actually people swimming [in the harbour]. You could have a sauna and you could swim, Van Buren said. “But it’s not going to work with maintaining a navigable working harbour to have people actually swimming it conflicts with boats going around.”
Now the plan is for the ocean water to be filtered and brought into the lower pool.
When designing the change rooms, Van Buren says the team looked at a few options, then determined a universal changeroom would be best for the space.
“We did a ton of research, and there’s an architectural firm called HCMA, and they put out a set of design guidelines about how to create universal change rooms,” Van Buren said. “What it is, is that communal space in between is almost more like a chamber in the lobby, you don’t actually change in that space. It’s just like a thoroughfare.”
“And then the change stalls themselves are closed, so you would go into change stall then you would change and then you’d come out in your bathing suit and towel or robe.”
The application says the space has been designed for accessibility in mind.
The interior of the ship will be accessible, but the company notes getting into the facility will only be considered partially accessible, due to the steep ramp infrastructure. The application says the company plans to work with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and City of Victoria to address this issue.
“In the meantime, we will recommend that anyone with accessibility issues come to HAVN at high tide, when the ramps are at their lowest,” the application document reads. “A link to tide charts will be posted on our website. The steep sidewalk currently connecting Ship Point to Wharf Street can also be avoided for those with need by accessing the site via car.”
Although Ship Point can be stormy, Roberston says an assessment has been done which determined the winds would not have a large impact on the barge.
“We went through that assessment and based on the size of the barge they are proposing, we don’t see any particular challenges with how the winds come into that area,” Robertson said. “That was that was looked at, and we had an assessment done and determined that it would not be a significant factor.”
In an application to the city, Havn says Havn will help address multiple facets of the city’s Ship Point Master Plan including introducing year-round activation and programming, improving connectivity and access, and building “social vitality.”
Van Buren says the next step in the process is to undergo public consultation, and he plans to have an engagement website set up within the next week where people can submit feedback on the project.