Three levels of government have approved funding for a controversial transit exchange in downtown Nanaimo.
The transit hub will be built along Terminal Avenue near Commercial Street.
“This is great for Nanaimo because it will allow and bring more people to the downtown,” said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of Engineering and Public Works.
“It will be much simpler for people to get to the downtown and then access the transit network from the downtown as well.”
To make the bus terminal a reality, the federal and provincial governments are kicking in more than $6 million each, while the Regional District of Nanaimo is contributing just over $3 million of the $15 million total.
The City of Nanaimo is contributing the land.
It’s been in planning for years despite strong opposition from the Victoria Crescent Association.
“Disgusted. We’re disgusted that the city hall has forced this on our area despite us going to city council, the regional district, having petitions done,” said Kevan Shaw, the association’s founding president.
The group of area residents, businesses and property owners also held multiple protests, including one in February. Their fear is that the transit hub will be a magnet for more social disorder.
“This will only make it worse and the blood of any crime or fires in the new transit exchange the blood from that will be on the hands of this city council,” said Shaw.
“I think that money could’ve been better allocated to better solve some of the really pressing issues that are affecting downtown,” said Jay Flett, manager of The Terminal Bar who remains against the bus terminal.
The city insists it will take steps to make sure the new exchange is safe.
“This particular one will be designed with a lot of lighting and lots of activity to ensure that social disorder is not a major concern,” said Sims.
However, not all downtown Nanaimo businesses are against the new transit exchange.
“Fantastic. I think it’s really great for downtown,” said Fred Jeffery, president of the Downtown Nanaimo Business Association.
“I think it’s something that we need, moving people around in an efficient way and as a business owner downtown I think it’s great that they’ll be letting passengers off just almost right on our doorstep.”
Now that the funding is in place, the city says the project’s design phase will start shortly, and construction will begin within the year.