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Troubled commercial units on Richmond waterfront finally see lease action

New businesses to open doors in long-vacant units at Steveston's Imperial Landing development, which has been at centre of controversy for a decade
Imperial Landing lease sign
The "For Lease" signs are starting to come down at Imperial Landing in Steveston. File photo

The former ghost town that was the Imperial Landing site in Steveston is about to get a lot more lively.

“Leased” signs have recently popped up on most of the remaining vacant commercial spaces at the waterfront location.

Developer Onni told the Richmond News about some of the new businesses that will soon open their doors at the site, which has been the centre of a rezoning controversy over the last decade.

According to Onni, it has signed lease agreements with the likes of Goodlife Fitness, one of Canada’s largest fitness club chains.

A Thai restaurant called Bann Lao will also occupy one of the units, while the Colony Restaurant Group – which operates three large bar/restaurants in Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant and North Vancouver – will also be opening a location.

A spokesperson for Onni also confirmed that the developer has started work on its waterfront hotel, which they hope to open in late spring or early summer 2020.

However, the company said it still has some space available for lease and is open to offers from prospective clients.

After more than 10 years of battling with the City of Richmond and Steveston residents, Onni agreed to a deal with the city in June of this year.

Onni agreed to pay $5.5 million to the city in exchange for rezoning six commercial buildings on the waterfront, which were originally supposed to be for marine mixed use. The money was earmarked for Steveston Community Centre.

Not everyone on city council was happy with the rezoning in the summer, including Coun. Kelly Greene, who called the move a “travesty.”

She pointed out that the mixed maritime use was supposed to be the city’s compensation for the development, which is on the old BC Packers Ltd. site.

The zoning amendments added several types of use to the six Imperial Landing buildings — health service, hotel, recreation, restaurant, retail and financial service — and removed boarding and lodging, community care facility and home business.

Since 1998, the city had contemplated its vision for the waterfront site of BC Packers.

About half the site, to the east, became condos and a waterfront park, while the other half sat empty until 2012 when Onni built six buildings under maritime-industrial zoning, which was intended for servicing the village’s marine industry. However, the buildings were built to also accommodate commercial uses.

Since 2013, the developer had failed to lease the space for maritime use and hence the buildings sat empty.