Designs have come in for a new Nanaimo Correctional Centre that is meant to resemble a post-secondary campus more than a jail.
The City of Nanaimo’s design advisory panel reviewed Feb. 25 a development permit application from Stuart Olson Construction Ltd. on behalf of B.C. Corrections. The province is spending $157 million to rebuild Nanaimo’s existing jail with similar capacity on an expanded footprint on 47 hectares of land on Biggs Road along the shore of Brannen Lake.
“The NCC master plan is designed to reflect a typical college campus, to the greatest extent possible within a correctional centre,” wrote Tony Gill, architect with IBI Group, in the development permit application.
The project will see phased demolition of the existing correctional centre and construction of 12 new buildings. The architect says that the main administration building will be the only building visible from Biggs Road, as “where possible, landscaped berms and planting has been used as screening to obscure the scale of the development.”
The main administration building will house the jail’s “secure populations,” supporting services, staff offices, dining areas and more. Clusters of buildings will house inmates in medium-security and the Guthrie therapeutic program.
The centre of the property includes a programs and services building with a gymnasium, workshops and more. The plans also include an outdoor basketball half-court and a playing field with a perimeter pathway.
“The site has extensive open recreation space including public plazas, space for agriculture and common green spaces,” notes a city staff report. “Indigenous elements and wellness programming is supported throughout the site.”
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The applicant is asking for a height variance as a portion of the administration building is proposed at 18.7 metres, above the 14m allowable under community service zoning. Gill wrote that the infringing area is the “central control and security system” for the entire site and that “this location is ideal for the function of this spaces, as view lines from the central control to the public entry, public parking lot, staff parking lot and the NCC campus are essential for the safety of staff and inmates.” The design panel supported the height variance.
Panel members were generally impressed with the applicant’s approach to designing a correctional facility and called the plans “fascinating” and “first-class.” Coun. Tyler Brown, a member of the design panel, said the design maximizes the use of the property’s natural location.
The development permit application will come before city council at a future date.