The HMCS Sackville is Canada's last intact corvette. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A multimillion-dollar naval memorial and heritage centre featuring HMCS Sackville could take several years before it becomes a reality, but plans for the project are already underway.

An office is opening and a project manager will be hired this spring.

The entire project could cost more than $50 million and take eight years to complete. It will require a national fundraising campaign, corporate sponsors and federal funds.

HMCS Sackville, the last intact Canadian corvette, docks close to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic during the summer.

The trustees have plans for a land-based berth, to be located near its current summer spot.

"It's a big project, a major project, and it can of course be done in stages too," said Hugh MacNeil, a retired vice-admiral and the chairman of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust.

"We think when it's completed, it's going to be a great enhancement for the Halifax waterfront. We're going to take it in sensible, measured steps."

A Halifax Regional Municipality committee just approved a $50,000 grant to help pay for a design competition, as long as it gets more financial information. Private sponsors will also be needed to cover design costs.

MacNeil said the land-based berth is only one part of the dream for HMCS Sackville, which many consider to be a symbolic gravesite for Canadian sailors lost at sea.

"There'll also be an extensive heritage centre to tell that story — since the navy was founded in 1910 — and also a memorial hall for those who died," said MacNeil.