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Year-round floating spa barge proposed for Victoria’s inner harbour

Move over English Bay barge, Victoria is coming for your crown.

Or at least it will be, if a business proposal for the city’s inner harbour can get the green light from city council.

The proposal in question: a 44-metre Nordic spa housed on a barge that would float just steps away from the inner harbour causeway and within view of the iconic Empress Hotel and B.C. legislature.

The proposed site of the spa barge.

The proposed site of the spa barge.

Havn Experiences Ltd.

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“It’s going to be something that a lot of people see the value in and a place (where) people can come and just enjoy the waterfront and enjoy the harbour in a more meaningful way,” Nicholas Joel Van Buren, CEO of proponent company Havn Experiences, told Global News.

The proposal is for the spa barge installation on a central piece of the wharf that juts into the harbour, next to Victoria’s float plane terminal.

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It’s prime real estate, but Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson said finding a permanent tenant has been tough.

“This spot on this particular part of the wharf here has always been very transient, so any opportunity we get to have something here on a permanent basis is excellent,” he said.

Robertson said the harbour authority started taking business proposals for the area in 2022, a process that attracted the Havn proposal.

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He said the idea is modelled on similar, successful floating spas in Helsinki, Oslo and Montreal that attract customers 12 months a year.

“That’s what impressed us most about the proposal, is these guys have done their homework. They’ve looked at other like barges around the world,” he said.

“One of the strategies has always been to lengthen the season in which tourists come to Victoria. Having something like this on a year round basis is just going to add to the experience.”

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If approved, the barge would be home to four saunas, three hot pools and two fresh water cold pools.

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It would also include one ocean water pool, an idea brought on board when swimming in the harbour was scrubbed for safety reasons, due to the proximity of float planes and other vessel traffic.

“It’s going to be filtered, and the idea is when you get out of the sauna you can sit in the salt pool. You’re looking right at the harbour. You get the sensation you’re interacting with the ocean.”

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The facility would also include indoor and outdoor spaces to relax or hold events.

Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, described the idea as “pretty cool” and an opportunity to add vibrancy to the waterfront.

“We have convention delegates year-round. We have high yielding business travellers year round. And we’re increasingly a getaway destination year round, so it’s a big commitment and I think we’ll have the customers to support it,” he said.

To get the green light, the City of Victoria would still need to amend zoning for the area to include floating saunas as an approved use.

The proposal will also need to undergo public consultation.

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If those boxes can be ticked off, the spa could be in place as early as spring 2023.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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