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Waterwheel Square work won’t start until late August

Part of the Waterwheel Park parking lot in Chemainus is slated for a revamp into a town square. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Part of the Waterwheel Park parking lot in Chemainus is slated for a revamp into a town square.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

A big round of work slated for Chemainus’ Waterwheel Square is expected to start by late August.

Officials with Mural Town’s chamber of commerce regret the $802,000 revamp, to build the new town centre, was booked to begin around now, but has been stalled due to lousy weather.

Still, there’s a silver lining.

“Rather than have the (Waterwheel) park under construction during May, June, and July, North Cowichan (council) has elected to postpone it until the last week of August,” chamber spokeswoman Jeanne Ross states in the chamber newsletter.

“Too bad we won’t be able to enjoy the new square this summer, but it will be much better than if it was dug up during tourist season.”

Councillor Al Siebring agreed, noting Chemainus’ new library, targeted opposite Waterwheel Square on the current old firehouse site, as another factor in the square project to basically be done by late fall.

“A design consultant did the whole Chemainus revitalization plan, and this (square project) flowed from that,” he told the News Leader Pictorial of the multi-use square fitting into a much bigger picture.

“We’re talking a waterfront trail, what to do with the (Chemainus Road) Benchlands.

“These guys did some visioning for the square; we took that as a basis. “We’re eating this (core revamp) elephant one bite at a time.”

North Cowichan’s recent revitalization tax exemption program to encourage private development of downtown Chemainus, and future Benchlands development, were contributing factors in the success of the chamber’s funding applications, its newsletter states.

North Cowichan taxpayers are tossing a $200,000 grant into the square. The Island Coastal Economic Trust will add funding.

Plans call for redeveloping part of Waterwheel Park’s busy parking lot into a vibrant town centre square of about 20,000 square feet, and reconfigure the parking lot to stage community events, notes the chamber

“The square will become the heart of Chemainus, and provide an energetic, multi-functional, pedestrian-friendly space that will host events such as the public market, arts and cultural festivals, music in the park, and other functions.”

“It’ll be a lot like Duncan city square,” noted Siebring.

“We don’t have curbs so it can be pedestrian space, with bollards to control inflow and outflow.

“We can do a bunch of things there beside park buses.”

Meanwhile, he expected the firehall to be flattened in a year or so to usher a mixed-use library building potentially holding residential and commercial space under a methods used by the Vancouver Island Regional Library board.

VIRL is renting the publicly owned Cowichan Library until it’s paid off, then those rental revenues will be used for other demands by the regional board.

“But now, VIRL wants to own its buildings,” explained Siebring.

“We’ll (council) build it to what we want, and to VIRL’s standards. Later they’ll hand us a (purchase) cheque.

“North Cowichan and its residents have a lot to say about what the library looks like, but VIRL has its standards.”

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