Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Name change likely for Rupert's Landing project; as City Council approves quest for grant funding for relocation of airport ferry dock

Operations Manager Richard Pucci provided an update for Council towards
pursuit of grant funding for the Rupert's Landing project

Prince Rupert Council has given staff the green light to go ahead and seek out grant funding for one of the City's high profile vision projects, with the Rupert's Landing proposal one that was up for discussion at Monday's Council session.

The project which we made note of in our Council Preview on Monday, dates back to the vision making exercises of four years ago, the Rupert's Landing plan one which was highlighted last December as part of Mayor Lee Brain's 2030 Redesign Rupert presentation.

Monday night council was asked to approve the quest for grants and offer to commit to the city's portion of the project funding and any cost over runs; though as part of his presentation the City's Operations Manager Richard Pucci did note that any total towards the required financial commitment from the city was unknown at this time.

While the plans for the project may be moving forward, the name Rupert's Landing which has been the focus for the proposal over the last four years, would appear to not have much more of a shelf life left.

Much of the discussion from Council on Monday revolved around a suggestion from Councillor Mirau, who participating by phone, observed that this may be an opportune time to provide for an Indigenous focus for the terminal location.

"I understand that the name Rupert's Landing obviously came from the planning partnership work  that was done a couple of years ago around that waterfront redevelopment concept ... but I'm wondering just given the nature of our project partner and the potentially powerful symbolism of a key landmark and new waterfront development if this doesn't provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate Sm'algyax or Coast Tsimshian into the name."

"I don't mean to sound disrespectful to the namesake of our city, I just think naming another thing after Prince Rupert in the year 2020 seems a little ludicrous to me, especially considering who's territory this development is taking place on" -- Councillor Blair Mirau with a few thoughts on the city's proposed airport ferry dock relocation plans

Mr. Mirau's observation is an interesting and timely one for these times, as well as to how it offers up some first hand experience to the theme;  particularly in the scope of his day job overseeing the business enterprise at Seal Cove known as Rupert Lawn and Garden.

Photo from Rupert Lawn and Garden website

Council members quickly followed up with enthusiasm towards the name change idea with Mayor Brain noting that nothing was set in stone and that it was a suggestion that could be considered and discussed with the partners in the project.

Councillor Cunningham also offered up his support towards Mr. Mirau's name change suggestion, as well as for the terminal project; though he did raise some questions towards the financing of the project asking for  some further background as to whatever cost the city would be responsible for.

"Do we have any idea how much that is going to be, seeing as the city is in a quite tight financial situation right now and has this been budgeted for, cause if it hasn't been budgeted for I'd be interested"

Mr. Pucci advised that at this time the city does not have the full cost implications and noted that it would depend on what attributes the city would want to associate with the project, noting that they would also be partnering with Gitxala which would also have their own attributes in mind for the project.

In January of 2019 Council approved a similar motion of support towards seeking out grant money for the project, at that time it was estimated that the city's 10 percent share of the development would make for a civic contribution of 1.26 million dollars.

Mr. Cunningham then asked about whether there would be any time saved for the ferry transit between Digby Island and the City with the move to the new location.

"The one thing that concerns me right now is, we've got twenty five, thirty, even forty percent of travellers coming from Prince Rupert  going to Terrace because it's faster to fly out of Terrace than here. And if we're adding time to go from here to the airport and back again, it might be detrimental to our airport from the viewpoint of passengers"

Mr. Pucci could not provide an answer for him, though Mayor Brain advised that long term it would be quicker, providing his view on how the new location would solve some current logistical issues.

"It would actually, long term it's going to be quicker, because the challenge right now is the rail line that's in front of our ferry right now, with DP world backing trains up and forth, that line is over occupied for a serious amount of time and people are having to wait to get the bus through. So that is probably only going to increase in terms of business, so moving the airport ferry out of that location would alleviate the train traffic issue that the ferry is going to be facing long term. 

So, ultimately it's a better efficiency and we also get efficiencies by partnering with Kitkatla and having the one shared dock  type of thing there. So, and a new greeting area of the town the idea that that's where people come in and there's a new greeting of the town, a new central  location into the new downtown and it creates a better tourist experience as well for the community."

Mr. Brain also noted for Council that the bulk of the financing of the project would come from provincial grants with the City and Gitxala, with the Mayor also observing that he believes that the new terminal project will be a spectacular development and how he looks forward to it breaking ground.

For his contribution to the discussion, Councillor Adey redirected attention towards the topic of the grant application, adding his agreement to consider a name change towards an Indigenous focus.

Councillor Niesh offered up the suggestion of a First Nations naming contest to name the new terminal, Councillor Skelton Morven concurred with the themes of shifting focus to an Indigenous name.

More background on the history of the Rupert's Landing proposal and some of the other major vision programs presented by the City can be reviewed here.

Currently the Airport Ferry makes one crossing per day related to scheduled air operations to the Digby Island airport.

Flights to Prince Rupert were suspended by the sole provider Air Canada back in March as part of their COVID response measures.

The airline resumed operations to the city with once a day service in June, to date there has been no indication from Air Canada towards when a wider schedule of flights will resume.

You can review the full discussion from Monday's Council session from the City's Video Archive, it begins at the thirty three minute mark.

Further notes on Monday's Council session is available from our Council Timeline.

A wider overview of Council discussion themes can be found here.

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