Town of Ladysmith names developer to build new city hall with housing

Town of Ladysmith names developer to build new city hall with housing

The Town of Ladysmith has named the developer it will work with to build a new city hall and close to 100 rental units in the same project.

The town’s mayor says it’s hoped the combination will create much needed rental housing and cost savings for a new city hall.

“Adding housing can not only lower the costs of a project like this, but provide more community benefit. So 95 rental units, sub-market rental units, is a huge opportunity for the community,” said Mayor Aaron Stone.

The Town of Ladysmith has known for more than a decade that it’s city hall, built in 1952, has needed an upgrade.

Among its problems is that council chambers can only hold 35 people, the town has to use space heaters in the winter to help keep it warm, and most of the building has stairs making it inaccessible for those in wheelchairs, not to mention it doesn’t have enough space for all the staff.

In 2015, the town bought the property’s at Buller and First streets to make a new city hall a reality.

The plan is to build a 25,000 square foot space that would include a new city hall and other tenants, possibly the Vancouver Island Regional Library Branch, and up to 95 rental units.

This week, Ladysmith council gave the green light for staff to reach a long-term lease agreement for the housing and a construction contract for the rest with Catalyst Developments.

“I think the not-for-profit part is huge right. Their track record is another big piece whether it’s big cities like Vancouver or Victoria or Tofino. I reached out to all of my connections in those communities to ask their experiences with Catalyst and they’re universally supportive,” said Stone.

Story continues below

Ladysmith city hall is shown on Feb. 8, 2024. (CHEK News)

The Ladysmith residents CHEK News spoke to Thursday said they are in favour of the town including sub-market rental housing in the project.

“Low income housing would be a great way to go. I’m fully supportive of that one,” said Kyle Emmerson, a Ladysmith resident.

“The issue I have is there have been multiple housing projects where they said it’s for affordable housing and the prices when those projects are completed are not for affordable housing,” said Cody Lane, also a Ladysmith resident who is currently looking for a new home he can afford in the community.

Stone said the rental units would be energy-efficient and Catalyst has a track record of providing rentals at 10 to 40 per cent below market-rates.

There are still two large question marks hanging over the project to replace city hall.

The first, will the province kick in any funding? The Town says it’s talking to the province about the project and believes it will qualify for some financial support.

And second, will taxpayers agree to borrow a sum initially estimated at $13.5 million dollars for the project.

A city staff report this week says they’re analyzing the number that was “…based on a broad range of point-in-time assumptions such as population growth, interest rates, construction costs, staffing, etc. Even since 2020, many of these parameters have changed, in some cases significantly (e.g. construction costs and interest rates).”

Once the costs are analyzed more, the city is expected to launch an Alternative Approval Process to decide whether it all goes ahead.

In the fall of 2023 Ladysmith cancelled a tender for building a waterfront studio after project estimates tripled in cost.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!