The Wood Innovation and Design Centre is going ahead.
The provincial government and City Hall announced Monday that ground will be broken in February. All that remains is to choose the final construction company from a shortlist of three.
"This is happening. It's a done deal," said mayor Shari Green, after months of silence that led to public speculation that the project was discontinued.
Minister of Jobs and Tourism Pat Bell said Monday that there were seven groups on the Request for Qualifications shortlist and all presented such strong cases that it took unusually long for an arm's length panel to pick the best three.
"We are now moving to the final stage of the procurement process," he said. "I encourage these companies to consider ideas that will maybe make it taller [than the minimum six-storey stipulation], maybe make it bigger."
The building is slated to go on the corner of 5th Avenue and George Street on what is now a vacant lot after the former Prince George Hotel building was razed.
The three shortlisted companies are: Maple Reinders/Cree; WIC Design + Build; PCL Westcoast Constructors 1057 Inc.
The main feature of the building is that it will be created primarily out of wood, including the support timbers. Few wood buildings in the world exceed six stories, especially commercial multi-use buildings, said Bell.
This one already had major tenancy commitments from the provincial government and UNBC, Bell added. A-class commercial rental space was also expected.
"While only three groups could be shortlisted, the three successful design-build teams have the ability to add to their teams where they feel necessary. This may include members of teams that were not selected to move forward for the RFP process," Bell said.
The purpose of the Wood Innovation and Design Centre (even the name is open for discussion) is to advance B.C.'s expertise in wood-related products, and it will highlight new and innovative wood building products and techniques.
"We want this to be a real asset to the community. I'm hoping the three shortlisted proponents will arrive at a creative building we can all be proud of," said Green. "We look forward to the next step - with shovels in our hands."
The February start-date also comes with an expected completion time of fall 2013.