The City of Whitehorse has partnered with the Yukon government to determine what to do with the vacant lot at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street, an area almost two city blocks in size.
The three-hectare parcel of land adjacent to the clay cliffs has been empty for many years, according to Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services.
Part of the reason is because a 2002 study showed that some of the lots on the land were developable when it was previously thought they weren’t, he added.
A portion of the land was contemplated for development as part of the 2007 Downtown Plan, and further contemplated in the 2011 Downtown South Master Plan, Gau said.
And despite concerns over the years about land slides, the clay cliffs have been allowed to stabilize thanks to a different land use above them, such as drainage and snow dumping from the airport.
While there still remains a high hazard zone where sloughing can occur, Gau said, the area being considered for development is outside of this zone due to a zoning boundary change made in 2012.
Although it’s too early to confirm what will be built on the site, the priorities for the time being are a mix of affordable housing and commercial development, according to a recent news release.
“We’ve agreed with the Yukon government to work with them to do a detailed design on how the land could be carved up and sold to the private sector for development,” Gau said.
The area, part of Whitehorse’s Downtown South Master Plan, has been identified for the city’s tallest buildings.
“We did some shadow analysis from the clay cliffs and the higher building heights will have very little impact on a lot of people,” Gau said.
Buildings in the area can be as high as 25 metres, or approximately six storeys, he said.
The zoning for the lot is currently designated as CM2 (mixed-use commercial), which means that it allows for a wide range of purposes, he added.
“A ground-floor commercial space could provide for needed services in that neighbourhood, and allows people to possibly work and live in the same building,” he said.
A steering committee will be created to oversee the planning initiative. The process is expected to be completed by December, the release stated, after which an request for proposals will be issued for detailed planning and engineering options for the site.