Building A Bright Future – Years of Planning Coming to Fruition for Stz’uminus First Nation
Over the past decade, the Stz’uminus First Nation, a small nation on Vancouver Island, has been working hard toward achieving economic stability through land development. Urban Systems has been right alongside them on their journey to build the Oyster Bay Neighbourhood. Oyster Bay is a 300-acre property on the Trans-Canada Highway just north of Ladysmith.
The Oyster Bay Neighbourhood
Phase I of the Oyster Bay Neighbourhood consists of 65-acres and is divided by Highway 1 north of Ladysmith. It sees a phenomenal 25,000 vehicles a day pass by (for context, 20,000 vehicles a day means national retailers are interested). It’s here that the Nation wanted to create an attractive mixed-use neighbourhood with residential, commercial and tourism uses to provide opportunity, jobs and economic stability into the future.
When Urban Systems first began working with Stz’uminus FN, there was nothing in Oyster Bay. Today there is the newly renovated Oyster Bay Store, Husky Gas Station, A&W Restaurant, Ladysmith & District Credit Union, Tim Hortons, and an Esso Service Station. The development will soon contains a 81-room Wyndham Hotel and nearly 100,000 square feet of commercial and professional office space. There are future plans for an assisted living facility with 400 units and a single family subdivision. Full development should take between 10 and 15 years and create hundreds of jobs along the way.
In It Together
Andrew Baigent of Urban Systems has been part of the team working with the Nation over the last decade. He explains that Urban Systems was a key part of the many aspects of moving this project forward, from market assessments, neighbourhood concept plans, design guidelines, site servicing agreements, fire protection and more. ‘We’ve had a hand in things all the way down to aspects that are less visible but equally important, such as how to get water and sewer access to the site,” says Andrew. “Basically, the grunt work of putting everything in place so development could happen. Then this last year has been all about building.’
Vibrant Communities Come In All Sizes
Andrew says that seeing the neighbourhood growing and succeeding is a good reminder that Urban Systems’ work can have a huge positive impact, especially in smaller communities. “Any time we can be part of an economic development project with a First Nation and help them bring in revenues I am excited and happy,” He affirms. “Sometimes we have to be patient and work through complex issues, but we can play a vital role in helping transform communities in a positive way—I am convinced of that.”
Looking to the Future
One of the most exciting things about this development is that it will allow the Nation to take control of their own destiny. Having their own revenue sources means they won’t be dependent on program funding from Ottawa. As Andrew points out, “An unbelievable number of people fill up on gas and get their lunch or coffee along that highway. The Nation just got their first cheque from Tim Hortons and revenue from the commercial and professional office space is quickly changing the fiscal position of Stz’uminus First Nation; and in a very positive way!”
Now that the Nation is beginning to see a return on their initial investment, the next steps are planning for the future. “It’s all so fresh that the return hasn’t had enough time to sink in yet, but that will come,” Andrew clarifies. “Having this revenue will allow the Nation to do things like improve the community, by building housing and community facilities—the sky is the limit. It’s just a game changer.” He goes on to illustrate that the Nation approaches everything they do with the mindset that they are part of one region, a community that includes them and their neighbours, and how they are welcoming and inclusive, with a desire to share their culture through economic sustainability, vibrant architecture and traditional place names. “It’s the entire region that will benefit from this exciting development. The mayors and councils of both Ladysmith and Nanaimo attended the grand opening and are eager to partner with the Nation to make this Oyster Bay, and the entire region, a better place for everyone. That’s so empowering and awesome to hear.”
In June 2017, the Stz’minus First Nation hosted local dignitaries and business partners to celebrate the success of the Oyster Bay Development. Chief John Elliott took the opportunity to thank Urban Systems for our involvement in the project.