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Town of Ladysmith finds development partner for new city hall project

Project expected to include 95 housing units on top of new city hall and institutional space
Ladysmith council members voted Tuesday, Feb. 6, to finalize a partnership and lease agreement with Catalyst Developments for a new city hall and residential housing units at the Ladysmith Museum property on the corner of Buller Street and 1st Avenue. (Bailey Seymour/The Chronicle)

The Town of Ladysmith has found a developer to partner with on a project that could include a new city hall, institutional space and housing.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, council members directed staff to finalize a construction contract and long-term lease agreement with Catalyst Developments, a non-profit that develops, owns, and operates affordable rentals across B.C.

The project is expected to include 95 rental housing units on top of non-residential space containing a new city hall. Other space in the building not needed for city hall purposes would be utilized by other tenants, for example Vancouver Island Regional Library, which was a possibility explored in two separate reports from 2016 and 2020.

According to a staff report to council, the town plans on working with the developer and the province on the project through the upcoming B.C. Builds program, which is expected to be introduced this year, and will be for “local governments to provide land, either in the form of vacant or underutilized sites or through partnerships where housing is built in conjunction with municipal facilities, and to work together to start the construction of rental housing quickly.”

The report mentioned that Catalyst would be responsible for constructing the entire facility, including design and construction management, and would pay for the housing portion of the development while the town would pay for the non-residential component.

READ ALSO: Town of Ladysmith plans to launch AAP to borrow for new city hall

“I think it’s an exceptional circumstance that we’re in, an exceptional opportunity potentially, to position ourselves in a good way. I think it’s important that we go through this process as efficiently as we can,” said Coun. Tricia McKay.

She thanked staff for the reports and for collecting the necessary information for the project, and she waits “with bated breath” for the project’s next steps.

Coun. Jeff Virtanen echoed McKay’s statement, calling the project a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for this town.”

Coun. Amanda Jacobson asked staff about options for alternatives other than Catalyst. Jake Belobaba, director of development services, said that council could explore a request for proposal process to explore other partners instead of Catalyst or to look for funding partners, however, it could “send us in a direction that is not as decisive” as the current recommendation from staff.

“I also did some due diligence on Catalyst over the weekend, we had some introduction to them, their resumé speaks for itself,” said Mayor Aaron Stone. “With a not-for-profit builder, you get those 10 to 40 per cent below market [rental costs] and that’s the kind of market we’re looking for, and they need to be constructed quickly. That’s the the two pieces to highlight, that it’s about both speed and sub-market costs.”

The recommendation to finalize the contracts was passed with Coun. Marsh Stevens opposed.

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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