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Apartment buildings could become part of the riverfront skyline: city

The city is considering allowing stand-alone condos and apartments to be built on the waterfront.A proposed downtown plan amendment would allow…

The city is considering allowing stand-alone condos and apartments to be built on the waterfront.

A proposed downtown plan amendment would allow construction of stand-alone apartment and condominium buildings in addition to the commercial, mixed commercial and residential buildings already allowed west of First Avenue.

“Well, the general proposition, I think, it’s a good idea — more and different types of housing in the downtown area,” said Piers McDonald, president of Northern Vision, which hopes to build the complexes.

“People have expressed concerns about commercial zones that go quiet after five or six o’clock in the evening and one way typically that communities avoid this is to encourage residential activity mixed in with commercial development.

“So, obviously, if you want people wandering around in the evenings, one good way to encourage that is to have living opportunities for them — to live in and around the commercial sector.”

The city has always wanted to see the waterfront become a more active and vibrant area.

 “We’re trying to encourage a mix of things happening down there,” said senior city planner Zoe Morrison.

“The idea behind this is that if you want to have activity all day and on the weekends then you need to have some people living there — so we’re just trying to encourage a range of development there.”

The city is not trying to build a second ‘hub’ that would compete with the already established Main Street and residential areas of downtown, said Morrison.

“It’s not really far enough from downtown for me to really think of it as a second hub,” said Morrison.

They are also not planning to increase the height allowance of buildings in that area above the current two-storey limit.

The amendment to the downtown plan that would allow apartment buildings by the riverfront is supported by city councillor Florence Roberts, as long as developers go through the city before building.

“If it’s done right, and with consideration of the area of the waterfront, it could turn out well,” said Roberts in an e-mail to the News.

“There are businesses downriver from Main Street and already two-storey buildings on the west side of First Avenue and the riverbank has a trail system all along the edge that won’t be touched, so I don’t see any concern as long as we keep up with what’s happening in the planning and permit department, which is our job.

“I don’t foresee a huge residential development going in between the Roundhouse and the Kanoe People for example, but I could see something down by Greyhound or beyond Boston Pizza, like is happening now at Spook Creek.”

This downtown plan amendment is one of seven that will be given first reading during Monday’s council meeting.

The downtown plan was adopted as a new vision for downtown Whitehorse on May 23.

The downtown plan generally builds upon the policy direction set out in the official community plan (OCP).

Once the amendments are passed, the downtown plan will become part of the OCP and the downtown plan policies will take precedence when considering downtown issues.