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Nanaimo's economic outlook bright as 'Hub City' makes big industry, housing investments

An aerial of downtown Nanaimo. The mid-Island city is taking steps to secure its economic future with investments targeting job creation, new commercial areas and housing.  William Wright Commercial Real Estate Services

Nanaimo's economic outlook bright as 'Hub City' makes big industry, housing investments
William Wright Commercial Real Estate Services
Citified's 'Commercial Real Estate Insight' in partnership with William Wright Commercial Real Estate Services is a monthly series covering regional commercial market activity, market updates and trends.
The Nanaimo commercial real-estate market continues to see development and investment interest from local and institutional players responding to growth opportunities throughout Vancouver Island's second largest metropolitan area.
With a number of notable developments already underway in Greater Nanaimo, the future looks bright for this mid-Island market approximately one hour north of Greatear Victoria.
The Bowers District development in North Nanaimo and the Sandstone development in South Nanaimo are set to deliver approximately 5,000 new homes at a time when Nanaimo officials say the city is 'desperate for housing,' as its urban population grows north of 100,000 people and its regional district population nears 180,000 people.
Seacliff’s Sandstone Master Plan is also focused on creating new economic and business growth by incorporating an industrial and employment node in South Nanaimo as part of its overall development vision.
A 50-year lease agreement, meanwhile, has the Duke Point terminal berth earmarked for an extension from 182 meters to 325 meters, in addition to the creation of new facilities and equipment. This development will pave the way for global shipping, after the Port of Nanaimo and DP World, an international shipping company, put pen to paper on a collaborative agreement. Efficiency of shipping between Nanaimo and Vancouver will be increased, in addition to the establishment of a foundation for future international importing and exporting to and from Asian markets through Vancouver Island. This move is yet another indicator of Nanaimo’s strong industrial market outlook. Combined with a record low supply of land inventory, industrial land and rental rates will continue to see upward pressure.
Looking to downtown Nanaimo, there are a number of large residential developments in the pipeline. Notable mentions include TELUS's and partner Omicron's proposed 197-unit rental building at 400 Fitzwilliam Street. And the old Howard Johnson hotel lands, located at 1 Terminal Avenue, will bring 698 housing units, a hotel, and a park if a proposed mixed-use riverfront redevelopment gets approved.
The lack of supply has drawn household names to this trade area, which continues to gain momentum, shown by Anthem’s Port Place, a well put together indoor/outdoor shopping centre, which has seen strong retail demand and currently has no vacancy.
Another exciting development has the Steiner Group currently renovating the iconic A&B Sound property in the heart of Nanaimo. Located at 1 Commercial Street and coined '1 Commercial,' the project is set to bring a wide range of brand-new retail and office space to the downtown Nanaimo area.
1 Commercial will attract residents and tourists with an open concept breezeway, allowing for a customer-friendly experience and a great addition and improvement to the surrounding area. This project is located along the Commercial Street redesign precinct, set to undergo revitalization by the City of Nanaimo that will bring new surface finishings, street trees, lighting, and public art, further enhancing the thoroughfare as a gathering place for downtown Nanaimo.
Nanaimo’s next Official Community Plan has been drafted and has a primary focus on urban growth and increased density for the region. With the amount of development and multiple exciting projects already happening, Nanaimo’s economic outlook looks strong as it focuses on job creation, investment and residential densification. C
Key points
  • 2022 population estimate: 103,513
  • Industrial vacancy rate: 0.45%
  • Residential vacancy rate: 1.0%
  • New OCP drafted 
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