The mid-Island region (and Nanaimo in particular) has seen considerable growth since the early 2000s. This was predictable in light of several local characteristics within the larger regional context:

  1. Changes to the labour pool
  2. Physical geography
  3. Vancouver's influence

A lot of resource extraction jobs vacated Nanaimo in the final decades of the 20th century. The blue-collar areas of the city decayed. Meanwhile "the suits" moved investment away from the old city, opening shopping malls and clearing large ridgetop lots north and west of Departure Bay. Many residents commented that things were too dispersed. By the 1990s, the city was spread thinly and had a clear north/south divide.

But all Nanaimo needed was more people to fill it out, and that happened in the past two decades.

University District and Nanaimo harbour

One explanation for the population influx comes from the internet and related technologies; more workers and tech companies are able to settle wherever there is internet access. Because Nanaimo has so many geographical advantages (discussed below), it was inevitable that people would move here as soon as they were able.

Indeed, it expected that immigration to Nanaimo will continue its increase over the next century, owing to:

  • Canadians are moving here: The Island has the mildest weather in Canada (and less rain than Vancouver)
  • BC residents are moving here: Housing/renting is much cheaper in Nanaimo than in Vancouver or Victoria - in Nanaimo can you live a block from the ocean, or have a stunning ocean view, for about half a million.
  • Foreigners are moving here: Canada's liberal socioeconomic conditions and good reputation ensure that it remains a desirable destination for immigrants (and vacationers)
  • Businesses are moving here: Nanaimo is the primary goods and services provider for most of Vancouver Island's communities - and the Island is growing.

Aging baby boomers provide another explanation for Nanaimo's recent growth. Warmer than the rest of Canada and drier than Vancouver, Nanaimo offers seniors a comfortable, laid-back lifestyle with all the services of a city with 83,000 consumers.

Future Development Trends

It is expected that Nanaimo's population will grow by about 30% (to 113,000) by the year 2031.

The Official Community Plan recognizes that in light of stated urban containment boundaries, "there is insufficient capacity to accommodate projected demand for single family dwelling units". Therefore, the City is supporting construction of semi-detached and apartment style units. The Plan also aims to foster nodes and corridors that support higher densities, and to do it all in more eco-sustainable ways.

In terms of commercial spaces, inventory is limited but it's said that existing units can be redeveloped larger. South Nanaimo is stated as lacking available commercial space.

I could talk about Nanaimo and its prospects all day. Please contact me if you think I can help you in any way.

Posted by Gerry Thomasen on
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