If all goes well for developer Howard Meakin, Sturgeon's on the River could be serving patrons meals and drinks as they overlook the Fraser River in just over a year.
Meakin got the green light from Mission council to move ahead with his $10-million proposal to moor the former McBarge at the foot of Horne Street in Mission and create a multi-use commercial complex.
The project is to house a Sturgeon's on the River seafood restaurant, a small pub and a café, plus offices for local guiding companies and be a terminal for a water plane service. The airline would fly between Mission and Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, he said.
The project has been in the works for close to four years, and Meakin said he has spent about $350,000 to date to get studies and approvals from 16 different agencies, such as the Department of Fisheries.
The previous district council gave second reading to the project, but said it was waiting until Meakin had purchased a land lot on the Fraser River shoreline, the former Meeker Cedar Mill site, so he could build a parking lot there.
The current council approved Meakin's plan even though he still does not yet own the land site.
"The next step is to get our tenants' interest reignited. We had strong interest in the past. They were quite upset it wasn't approved," he said last week.
"Without (the district's) support, it was impossible to do very much. But now doors are opening."
However, before his renewed application went back before the district council this January, he altered it to include options for commercial retail and office space, which builds in flexibility, Meakin said.
Once he has the tenants confirmed for the project, Meakin said he will be able to move ahead on the financing to buy the land lot.
The barge, which used to house the McDonald's Restaurant and was moored in Vancouver's False Creek during Expo 86, is anchored in Port Moody Arm off Burrard Inlet.
It's covered in algae and some graffiti. As part of the conditions with Mission district, the vessel must arrive in Mission clean and ready for renovations.
"It's been out in the open for 26 years, and it doesn't look very good right now. It will get some extensive work. The external metalwork will be removed but the porcelain-dipped aluminum will remain," Meakin said.
The vessel is structurally sound, he said, but it will undergo another marine survey before work begins.
"It's going to take a minimum of 12 months and could take as long as 18 months before the facility opens," he said.
Meakin is confident that Sturgeon's and the complex, with the ambience of the river, the local marina and floatplanes landing and taking off in the future, will draw a clientele from the region.
"There is no riverfront dining in the valley. Within half an hour of Mission, there's half a million people . . . and that's what we want to capture."