UPDATE OCT 19 2023: Following last winter’s “pause”, Council approved this “re-think” approach to the waterfront development! The RFP will be prepped to go public early in 2024 with submissions back to Council (and our residents) late in 2024. The RFP will define that the eastern portion be developed as parkland / recreational space and we will contribute money (we have $5 million pledged already) towards that goal. The RFP will also require deeded public access along the entire 1100 meters of waterfront (although we won’t require Town ownership) and removes the current official plan constraints from the design plans.
This is a blank slate for the development community to envision with us, followed by public consultation to review the submissions and options, and leading to choosing the most appealing proposal, together, as a community. A new official plan amendment will be created to match the winning submission.
Promise made – Promise kept, in under a year in office. This council believes in community engagement!
Midland Bay Landing Information Page (Town of Midland Website)
This afternoon’s photo while enjoying a coffee at the site, depicts where we are at with this 40 acres of waterfront. The future of Midland Bay Landing will be on next Wednesday’s agenda. After being paused post-election and then deferred pending the arrival of our new CAO, Council is ready to review the options. Waterfront parkland, a rejuvenated shoreline and responsible development for a large portion of the property, along with how to fund it all, will be the subject of debate and a decision on the path forward. Public consultation will be paramount throughout the process and my goal is to involve you in the selection of the best plan. We will do this together, for the benefit of future generations.
The report’s recommendation is simple and succinct.
That Staff Report CSR-2023-41, Midland Bay Landing Development Update, dated October 18, 2023, be received; and
1.That Council authorises staff to issue a new Request for Proposals for the entire Midland Bay Landing site; and
2.That Council agrees in principle to providing financial incentives to the successful developer as outlined in this report as a contribution to the construction of the public realm, to make the project financially viable.
The rationale for this recommendation is simple. The last two attempts to match the current official plan to developers, constrain their designs to the decade-old plan and ask them to build over $25 million worth of public realm (some parkland and 1100m of sea wall and promenade) was not financially viable and left too little open space / green space for residents and visitors.
Senior staff, the deputy mayor and I have met with many developers over the past 8 months, asking for their input about the best way to re-approach the waterfront planning process to make it financially viable for both the Town (taxpayers) and the developer.
The consensus is that we should
- put the entire property back up for RFP
- let the development community come up with plans that include the desired parkland, features and waterfront access
- pledge some financial contributions to the deal to help offset the costs of the desired public realm
- engage the community to help us pick the best submission
- then update the official plan to match the selected project
- cheer them on as the land is transformed from concept into reality
Keeping this process transparent, sharing progress and design submissions with the community and involving our residents in the refining / selection process, we will re-envision our waterfront and benefit from the blank canvas approach with the development community.
The financial contributions are simple. We need to put some real money on the table to help offset the costs of having a developer help us remediate the portion we intend to keep as park / recreational space. As we saw on the last two attempts, expecting the developers to soak up those costs have failed. I will be looking to the philanthropists in and around our community to help us with these costs and already have $5 million pledged from donor(s) that wish to remain anonymous at this time.
We have learned from the past two attempts and are changing our approach this time. I believe that the recommended option on this report, is the best path forward for Midland and putting the entire site back on the market and giving the development community a blank slate, with the public realm parameters, is going to get us the widest variety of design options that not only will bring in desperately needed tax base growth, spawn tourism and economic development, but also give us a beautiful, publicly-accessible waterfront and a new master plan that aligns perfectly with that vision.
I look forward to discussing this with Council next Wednesday evening and encourage you to reach out to your councillors in advance with your thoughts on the options and the rationale I am supporting to advance this project with the community.