Community housing development project relaunches in Saanich

Community housing development project relaunches in Saanich
Jim Beatty Communications
The area will be a renovated 1980s shopping centre with just under 600 housing units

The relaunch of a development project in Saanich has been announced following seven months of negotiations. The proposed plans had to halt while Wesbild – the company developing the area – made a deal with Home Depot about how much space they would occupy.

The University Heights development project plan has been resubmitted with a plan for 597 rental units with 60 of them being affordable housing, along with commercial space, a transit hub and 11,000 square feet of daycare space.

The project is planned to cost around $230 million.

“This is a 1980s era commercial mall, this opportunity to update it with a modern retail commercial space with just under 600 new housing units of which a good number are going to be affordable. It’s just a fabulous revitalization of that centre,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

The new development will have 121,000 square feet of commercial space including grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants, a 10,000 square foot expansion of the pre-existing Home Depot outlet, and a transit hub for busses, electric car and bike charging and cycling lanes for infrastructure.

The Gordon Head Residents’ Association (GHRA) is pleased with the outcomes of the deal with Home Depot and feels that Wesbild’s plan aligns well with Saanich’s needs.

“We found that their development project fit within the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan,” said Christine Poirier-Skelton, Chair of the GHRA. “There was a need for more accommodations for people, more units in the area especially for people who might be going to the university.”

Poirier-Skelton says, however, the definitions for affordable housing haven’t been outlined and there are some logistical concerns going forward concerning the amount of parking.

“We’ve never really received either from Saanich or from the developers a particular number or set number for affordable housing, like how much should affordable housing be,” said Poirier-Skelton. “Is it $1000 a month? Is it $900 dollars a month?”

She says the GHRA hasn’t received a clear answer because developers say it depends on how much it costs to put the development together.

Wesbild said in an emailed press release to CHEK News, the 60 affordable housing units won’t exceed 30 per cent of household family income in Saanich.

The press release also said the project will create over 309 construction jobs over the four-year build period and create 209 permanent jobs afterwards and have a $410 million economic impact on the local economy.

Mayor Haynes says the project has to go through more public approval with the revised plan and go through the council.

He says more developments may be made through the summer and into the early fall.

Justin WaddellJustin Waddell

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