Mega Housing Projects

If Dockside, Bear Mountain, the Songhees, and Railyards weren’t pumping out enough homes for a robust real estate market, along come redeveloped shopping centres in Saanich and Colwood, a subdivision at Olympic View golf course, and thousands of homes at Bamberton.

In terms of land area, Bamberton is the biggest of the latest crop. Jack Julseth’s Victoria-based Three Point Properties wants to build 3,200 homes on the hillside facing Saanich Inlet, where a cement plant operated from 1912 to 1981.

The company is proposing a range of housing types, from three different sizes of single-family lots and 20 larger waterfront estates, to townhouses and apartment buildings up to twelve storeys tall. About 8,000 people could be living there when it’s all built out over 25 years.

About 40 per cent of the 1,600-acre property would be kept as park and open space, including 20 kilometres of public trails and bicycle paths. Three Point is going after an older demographic and expects fully half of the 8,000 people living there will be retirees.


Three Point’s rezoning application recently went to the Cowichan Valley Regional District for review, a process expected to take about a year. The CVRD may have to hire one or two full-time staffers to handle the paperwork, and regional directors probably won’t get to vote on rezoning from the present forestry and heavy industrial to a comprehensive development zone until sometime in 2008.

“We expect to be, at a minimum, one year in this process,” said Bamberton development manager Michelle Mahovlich.

Towers at Colwood Corners

Colwood Plaza is a small strip mall on Sooke Road near Goldstream Avenue, the busy crossroads of what the municipality hopefully designated two decades ago as “downtown Colwood.” Then, it watched upstart Langford race away with all the prizes.

Now, developer Les Bjola of Turner Lane Properties proposes to bring some density to this location with a million-square-foot redevelopment of the land around the former Fairway supermarket. Three-quarters of the project would be housing, or between 800 and 900 condos, built over retail stores totalling 250,000 square feet.

If you like density, you’ll love this project. Bjola is asking Colwood to rezone for a floor-space ratio of seven to one and the concept plan includes five towers. The finished product may not be quite so big-cityish – Bjola says his current draft development concept is about four to one. (That means he could cover the entire site to four storeys, or half the property with an eight-storey building, and so on.)

The higher number came from a review of the maximum development the site could bear. In terms of sewer, water, and traffic access, the site “technically can handle seven to one,” said Bjola.

“Do I really want to make it Burnaby Metrotown, because that’s what the [seven-to-one] density is?”

His site also includes a row of houses behind on Jerome Road, which would be closed for two low-rise apartment buildings backing onto the Galloping Goose Trail.

What may help sales are a couple of features relating to its location, across from Royal Colwood golf course and about a kilometre as the seagull flies from Esquimalt Lagoon.

“Anything above the third floor sees the golf course and anything above the sixth floor sees the ocean.”

Bjola hopes to get the development permit application through the political process by mid-year. Allowing six months for detailed design and more for the building permit process, and finding a development partner, he figured the first building might get started in 2008 and finished by late 2009.

The over-all project will take longer. “It’s a fifteen-year thing,” he said. “I believe it’s a function of time. It’ll get through.”

Wal-Mart with condos
Redeveloped shopping centre number two is Town and Country, a three-phase project expected to cost over $100 million and take until late 2009 to finish. This year, Morguard Investment starts tearing down and rebuilding. After the construction dust settles, it should be one of the region’s largest shopping centres. When finished in 2009, T and C will be a 55,740-square-metre “lifestyle” shopping centre, bigger than the Bay Centre downtown and rivalling Mayfair and Hillside in retail space. And, it will be the only major regional shopping centre with housing alongside commercial space. It’s not the first in this department – Tuscany Village in Saanich will have 91 condos above Thrifty Foods, Milestones, Starbucks, and Pharmasave – but it will be the biggest. Phase three of the T and C redevelopment is 427 residential units.

A new golf course subdivision
Olympic View, the golf course that straddles the spot where Colwood, Langford, and Metchosin meet, is moving ahead on development plans first talked about years ago when the course opened. Olympic View is asking Colwood for a development permit to lay out a 219-lot subdivision, plus five sites for attached housing. It would be close to, but not bordering, the fairways on a piece of the 400-acre property. Deirdre Campbell of Tartan Public Relations, who represents the owners, Burrard International Inc., said more detailed information on the project is expected in the fall. Burrard International, Caleb Chan’s Vancouver-based company, is better known as Golf BC which owns fourteen courses in B.C. and Hawaii.

Investors like Vic West

There was a time when Victoria West wasn’t considered a very desirable part of town. But with the Bayview, Shutters, and Dockside developments pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Songhees, and the adjacent Railyards project rising near the Selkirk Trestle, that’s changing fast. Even older buildings in the neighbourhood are in demand.

One indicator was the sale of the 96-unit Parkwest Apartments at 55 Bay Street in November for $9.4 million to Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust, a Calgary-based portfolio of 260-plus apartment buildings with more than 34,000 units. It’s only the second deal in the area for Boardwalk, which is mostly concentrated elsewhere in the three western provinces and central Canada. Two years ago, Boardwalk bought the 161-unit Christie Point waterfront apartment complex in View Royal, near Craigflower Manor heritage house.

“It’s real simple – the core has nowhere to go but out,” said apartment specialist Garry Barsalou of Diversified Properties, who was the agent on the deal. “If I were a tenant in that building, I’d be pleased that Boardwalk’s coming in. They’ll spiffy it up. They’re going to renovate, spruce it up.”