Shortly before Matt Dunk moved to Port Alberni 10 years ago, he recalls many naysayers trying to convince him against the idea as the forestry-based town was struggling amid an economic downturn.
“Coming here, everybody said Port Alberni’s the worst place to live but I really don’t see that,” said Matt Dunk, Owner of All Mex’d Up.
But since moving to Port Alberni, Dunk has opened two successful restaurants and the city’s fortunes have begun to turn around.
“I think it will be more of a destination now if we have an area like that,” said Dunk. “That’s going to entice more people to come down.”
Port Alberni’s home prices are rising faster than anywhere on Vancouver Island in 2021, and the city’s recent purchase of a massive downtown waterfront mill site is set to fuel even more economic opportunities in the community.
“We own the site and we have the ability to really start to create and build the future that we want for this community,” said Minions.
Known as the Somass lands, the 43-acre waterfront property cost the city more than $5-million and was purchased in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.
“We’ve all felt for so long that it’s had a potential that we haven’t been reaching. It feels like we’re there now,” said Port Alberni’s Mayor Sharie Minions.
The old Western Forest Products mill has sat empty since 2017.
Conceptual plans created for the site show a mix of residential and light industrial development, including food processing, and a permanently accessible waterfront for the community that’s currently home to 18,000 people.
“The real estate market and the development market is booming here like we’ve never seen before and so we’re really hoping to take advantage of that and you know see some condos on the waterfront type of development in Port Alberni we haven’t had before because we really haven’t had the space,” said Minions.
Remediation work on the Somass lands is expected to take up to 24 months, after decades of heavy industrial use.