Wednesday, May 5, 2021

April's Lax Kw'alaams housing proposal presentation for 11th Avenue East is now available online

The Virtual Open House from April for the Proposed
Lax Kw'alaams Housing  on 11th Ave East is now available online

It's becoming one of the most discussed housing proposals in the community in a number of years, and towards providing more information on plans for the 11th Avenue East housing complex, Lax Kw'alaams housing and their design team have posted a video of the April 8th Open House.

The hour and a half session provided some history to the goal of providing for housing for some of the 1,400 Lax Kwa'alaams members living in the Prince Rupert area, as well as some further technical background to the proposed housing units.

The proponents noted that a number of sites were provided for review and that it was determined that for this project, the most suitable option was that of the property offered by the city on 11th Avenue East, and how the development would provide suitable accommodation for 200 members of the Band.

"We want to work closely with the City of Prince Rupert, we have some plans to make this a best property, user friendly ... This is going to provide a dream come true for a lot of the members" -- Harvey Russell, Lax Kw'alaams Council member

Prior to the technical review of the project the topic of site selection was addressed, with the moderator of the evening noting in response to some chat messages during the session, that the design team could not speak to the location of the project, as they were not part of that process.

"Just a reminder ...we are architects so we weren't part of the site selection, so it's not part of the purpose of the agenda for tonight. Although I do understand there have been lots of concerns over the site selection and we've tried to answer all the emails that we can. And we will certainly inform the city that that remains a concern, how that process unfolded. But as architects we're not in a position to answer that"  -- Heidi Nesbitt --The Human Studio/Michael Green Architects for the proposed development.

After some review of previous projects in other smaller communities in the province, the overview of the design for the Prince Rupert project covered a range of elements from the walk through of the site and how they visualized the project evolving on the footprint along 11th Avenue East.

The design teams from Human Studio and Michael Green Architects outlined the parameters that BC Housing has in place towards housing development and how it should reflect the powerful cultural identity of the Lax Kw'alaams community.

They also noted of the positives that they found from the selected site, including the unique nature of the location while close and within walking distance to downtown, access to area schools and how it also has access to parkland nearby.

The presentation observed that the site is not impinging on neighbouring properties and is in a location further into the wooded area towards the Montgomery and Prince Rupert Boulevard area, as a result of the drop to the bench site of the building it would be hidden from 11th Avenue area for the most part.

Architect Michael Green noted as to the unique nature of the site and the challenges that it provides for, noting how the building height is actually a six storey structure, but because of the slope of the land it is experienced as a lower building from the 11th Avenue vantage point. 

Diagrams from the 11th Avenue East Housing presentation

As for the capacity of the development, the 70 unit building will feature a mix of three, two and one bedroom units, as well as studio options.

The range of Housing options that would make up
the proposed apartment building for 11th Ave East

The remainder of the presentation provided for a Question and Answer session with those who viewed the April 8th Open House providing their contribution by way of Chat and video messages.

Some of the themes involved the prospect of future development of the remainder of the site, which the proponents noted that would be more of a city directed question.

To a question of the volume of units, the design team noted how they were able to add the units to the same building footprint and not add to any additional cost to it.

Parking was a concern from some, with the level of density raised by one participant as an issue of note among those in the immediate area.

Traffic was also a focus when it comes to the site,  the traffic specialist from McElhanney noted that they were just reviewing the concept and called on anyone with questions or concerns to contact them. The process of the traffic study to be conducted as part of the project was also explained.

Improvements for transit in the area also made for some focus, as did options for alternative transportation models such as bicycles.

Parking and traffic themes were among some
of the questions that made up the presentation

The impact on local trails and green space made for some comment, with the design team observing how they had taken note of the opportunities, but that BC Housing had not provided for any additional funding towards any improvements to those areas, suggesting that may be something that the City of Prince Rupert looks to address, it was also noted that Kaien Trails Society could be involved in the development of those options.

The use of some of the units of the apartment complex as a temporary residence for those members of Lax Kw'alaams in Prince Rupert for medical care also made for a bit of the conversation, with concerns over parking overflow making for a question.

The visual of the building from 11th was a topic of some note, with the design team noting the as they project evolves the introduction of new trees would replace some of those that will be removed as part of the construction process.

The flexibility that the design offers towards inter generational housing was also a feature in response to questions, noting how the larger units have an ability to connect to the studio units. The design team also outlined some of the amenities that the project could include.

If the zoning is approved and the work gets underway, the timeline towards construction would see a fall start with an eighteen month construction schedule in mind.

A lack of trust in the process that the city has introduced also made for a topic of note from the presentation; one contributor noting of some of the city's previous engagement on the topic that has left residents of the area concerned that their voices are not being heard.

The project design team did offer up their feedback form as one conduit for residents to use to make their concerns or questions known to the proponent.

Paul Legace from the Unemployed Action Centre was the last participant in the session, noting of the desperate need for affordable housing in the community.

The final word went to Harvey Russell from the Lax Kw'alaams Band, who thanked those participating on the night. 

"I'd like to believe most of your questions if not all have been answered in a respectful tone, that much I appreciate. And it's not that we want to build this, we will build this. Lax Kwa'laams will always work closely with the City of Prince Rupert and the residents of Prince Rupert. We just want what everybody else has dreamt of, affordable housing, adequate housing"

The ninety minute overview provides a fairly detailed overview of what the proposed housing project is all about and raises a number of concerns from those who may be impacted by it. 

The hour and a half presentation one that is well worth taking in to gain a sense of what the proponents hope to achieve in that area and how those proposal are being received.

The full presentation can be viewed here.

The notice of the release of the video presentation  came through a Social media post on the City of Prince Rupert Facebook page, which noted that any comments related to the Open House content should be directed to the Lax Kw'alaams Housing Project feedback page.

The City of Prince Rupert has not as of yet indicated when the Public Hearing related to the proposed development will take place.

For more notes on housing in the Northwest see our archive page here.


  1. Some additional background on this initiative, this was part of the provincial budget in 2018. Which called for a 10 year plan to invest around $1 billion in;
    - 1750 social housing units for off reserve indigenous housing ($550 million)
    - 2500 homes that have 24/7 support for the homeless or who are homeless at risk. ($500 million)

    Great idea, great design, great initiative, the money is there, build it.


    Why was 11th selected?
    What city owned lot was option B or C?
    Was site A,B,C and the intent to develop at that density ever made public?
    Who made the decision to not go with option B or C, city council or Prince Rupert Legacy Inc?
    Was that decision made during a weekly council meeting or in a monthly closed council meeting?
    Why a lease for $1 for 60 years?