City Council made wrong call on Squalicum Lofts

    Much has been made of the city’s dearth of industrial space in the past, and of the need to not only conserve what industrial space we have, but actively seek to expand our industrial base by recruiting more industry to the city. Presumably, this is why the City Council voted down a request on March 13 to rezone 7.5 acres of land on Squalicum Parkway from industrial to a commercial-residential usage.
   These are all cogent points.
   But when the opportunity comes to replace an industrial pocket surrounded by neighborhoods and a future park with a forward-thinking mixed-use commercial and residential project, sometimes you trade in those 7.5 industrial acres for something better. And that’s what Mike Allsop’s Squalicum Lofts project was — better.
   Better than the industrial use the land is zoned for. Why? Because the parcel is surrounded by the Birchwood and Columbia neighborhoods, and is adjacent to the future Squalicum Creek Park ballfields complex. Allsop will now proceed with moving his family’s manufacturing company, Allsop, Inc., from Meridian Street to the site. Will the neighbors really feel that an industrial complex is a better neighbor than Squalicum Lofts would have been, once the industrial complex is built? We doubt it, and assume the same neighborhood associations will attempt to prevent this complex from happening as well; given the zoning and the city’s stated desire to not lose industrial land, we think these residents may have made a grave mistake.
   Better for the environment. Anyone who has spent a gorgeous fall day watching chum salmon hurdle the falls at Cornwall Park knows Squalicum Creek is vital salmon habitat. The Squalicum Lofts was a low-impact development designed to make as little impact on the surrounding area as possible; more than 50 percent of the site’s 7.5 acres was designated as open or green space. One can reasonably assume the resulting industrial site will not be nearly as forgiving to the environment.
   Better for the city. Infill and the urban-village concepts, now so commonly viewed as ways of preventing sprawl, only work if you actually try them. Projects like Squalicum Lofts and Fairhaven Highlands could have added much-needed population centers without having to expand or annex. Of course, Southsiders are much more open to Squalicum Lofts, and Columbia residents might very well feel infill sounds like a great idea — in Fairhaven. But in their neighborhoods? No dice.
   The only recourse Allsop now has is worse for the city and surrounding neighborhoods.
   Much worse.

Off Beat
by Rik Dalvit





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