Ship Point floating sauna project receives green light from Victoria council

Ship Point floating sauna project receives green light from Victoria council

It’s full steam ahead for a new floating sauna at Victoria’s Ship Point.

Havn Harbour Sauna had applied to change the zoning on an area of Ship Point to allow recreation use for a sauna facility to operate on board a barge.

The sauna will be a three-deck barge with two decks open to the public, with saunas, cold water pools, and outdoor seating.

When open, Nicholas Van Buren, CEO of Havn Experiences, says it will bring year-round vibrancy to Ship Point.

“Let’s build a site that isn’t just for the summer months and then becomes dormant in the winter,” Van Buren said in Thursday’s council meeting. “Build strong connectivity and access so that people can feel like they’re connecting with the ocean and other parts of the city, vitality through high-quality design and also a site that supports a range of active uses so that it’s diverse and strong.”

Council members voted unanimously to approve the rezoning to allow Havn to operate at Ship Point.

Coun. Dave Thompson says he supported the motion because he wanted Victoria to be a city that says yes to businesses trying new and innovative ideas.

“I think that we need to be ready to try things you know we need to change from being a city of no to a city that conducts pilot projects that is not afraid to experiment that we can try new ideas we need we definitely need to think about animating our public spaces and making lively areas,” Thompson said.

“And in particular for this area of the harbour, we need to do something better. Right now this dock and nearby docks are primarily for yachts and the one per cent, or maybe the 0.01 per cent, and we’ve got parking lots. So we need to do a far better job with the whole area.”

Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria, said the Ship Point master plan is looking to revitalize the area, adding this project has the potential of breathing new life into the area.

“I’m hoping that it is in fact a catalyst for a larger conversation of what Ship Point can become,” Alto said.

“The preliminary designs that we looked at a few years ago are spectacular. They are truly transformative of the area, and if this is the beginning of the conversation to make that real, I’m for it.”

Van Buren noted while the facility is being built to be accessible, Ship Point is currently not accessible, but that is something the federal government and the City of Victoria will need to address.

Council asked staff how long it would take to make Ship Point accessible, and staff responded the city had been in conversation with the federal government on that issue for at least a decade so they were unable to provide a timeline.

However, Van Buren said he does want to make it financially accessible to everyone. Although Van Buren didn’t give a set price, he said the Havn Harbour Sauna will be on the lower end of harbour activity costs.

“It will be about one-third the price of a whale-watching tour,” he said.

Van Buren added he plans to also work with Victoria’s Leisure Involvement for Everyone program (LIFE program). This program allows low-income people and families who sign up the opportunity to show their tax returns at certain facilities and receive discounts or free entry at recreational facilities.

The sauna will be offering a 50 per cent discount during off-peak times to those registered for LIFE.

The barge is currently being renovated at Ogden Point. Van Buren said now that he has official council approval, he can now start brand development, staff onboarding and marketing.

If renovations on the boat go according to plan, the goal is to have Havn open for early summer.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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