Waterfront could open for development this spring

Nine of the lots in the Motorways area between Second Avenue and First Avenue adjacent to Keish Street and Black Street could be put up for sale in early March.

More development could be coming to the Whitehorse waterfront.

Nine of the lots in the Motorways area between Second Avenue and First Avenue adjacent to Keish Street and Black Street could be put up for sale in early March, said Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services. This area near the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, Whitehorse Public Library and the Greyhound bus station is mostly used for parking right now. The city wants to sell the properties and have them developed for both homes and businesses. The city has to pass a bylaw to approve selling the land. If the bylaw passes, the city will put out bids with the property prices, said Gau.

But before building could begin, the soil underneath needed to be cleaned up. White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad used the property to store freight trucks. The city purchased the property from the railroad in 1994.

It was unclear from some reports if all the soil in the area had been fully cleaned, said Gau. Reports done in 2011 showed high levels of cadmium and other heavy metals in the soil, as well as hydrocarbons from an underground storage tank still thought to be on the property.

The city hired EBA Engineering Ltd. to clean up the site. They found contaminants a metre deep in three of the properties between Keish and Black Streets, said Kinden Kosick, a city planner who managed the project. The soil has now been removed, and the company’s report should be ready by the end of this month. The soil was cleaned to levels suitable for residential development, said Gau.

At city council Monday night, the planning department recommended Mayor Dan Curtis sign an agreement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to receive $25,000 to cover costs of investigating and planning cleanup activities in the area. The funds do not cover costs of removing soil in the area.

EBA Engineering applied for the money through the FCM’s Green Municipal Fund. The fund, established by the federal government, gives money to help municipalities complete various environmental initiatives.

The overall budget for cleaning the area was $200,000, the planning committee’s report says. The city has spent about $110,000 on the project to date. If the mayor does not sign the agreement, the city won’t be able to recover any of the money it has spent on the project, the report says.

This won’t be the first time the city has tried to sell the land. These lots were put up for sale in 2008, but none were purchased. Some developers found the zoning conditions too restrictive, said Kosick. But last year’s changes to the zoning bylaw addressed that, said Gau.

The city wants the area to be developed for both homes and businesses, said Gau. The goal is to have businesses like art galleries and coffeehouses along the street, so people can enjoy spending time in the area, he said.

The city also owns a warehouse on the corner of Black Street and Second Avenue. But it can’t sell that property until it has more storage space, said Gau.

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