Construction work at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Centre for Plant Health in North Saanich is progressing quickly and smoothly since a ground-breaking ceremony in September.
The $80-million project is on schedule for completion in April 2025.
That’s according to a presentation that representatives of the centre – also known as the Sidney Laboratory – gave to North Saanich council at a meeting Monday (March 6). Renewal project director Jacqueline Booth told council excavation work is nearly complete, as is pouring the foundation for the new building.
Those who regularly drive by the East Saanich Road property on the Patricia Bay Highway are likely to see the first wall sections going up in the near future.
Since its establishment in 1912, the centre has served as a hub of horticultural research and testing in support of Canadian farmers and growers. Made up of more than 40 buildings, many of which are a century old and spread out over 48 hectares of land, the facility is also Canada’s only post-entry quarantine and testing lab for viruses and diseases affecting tree fruits, grapevines, and small fruits.
The facility renewal project was first announced by the federal government in the 2017 budget, and was an about-face from previous plans which would have shuttered the facility in 2012. It was launched due to the need to replace deteriorating buildings which have become expensive to maintain.
The project will see the collection of buildings spread out across the property replaced by one large building consolidating laboratories, office space, and attached greenhouses. It is designed to be low-profile to avoid impacting the area’s sight lines, and takes inspiration from the site’s historic buildings while incorporating Indigenous art and sustainability, built to LEED silver efficiency standards while being carbon-neutral ready.
The centre told council it plans on continuing to provide regular updates on the project’s progress both to council and the wider public.
It also plans on expanding its public outreach moving forward, including potential open houses to help the community learn more about the work carried out at the centre, and on the renewal project.
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