Ground has officially broken on The Beachlands, a new seaside development in Colwood that will include thousands of homes and bolster the city’s population, officials say.
“It’s going to be a world-class destination area,” said Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi during Monday’s groundbreaking. “It’s essentially going to double the population of Colwood.”
About 19,000 people currently live in the city, according to 2021 census data.
The $1.2-billion development, formerly known as Royal Beach, is adjacent to the Royal Bay development, with plans for 2,850 homes as well as retail and commercial spaces, which developers say will eventually bring hundreds of jobs to the area.
Many of these homes will be townhouses, or “missing middle housing,” which has been a hot topic in Greater Victoria. It aims to create more diverse, family-friendly housing.
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Meanwhile, 47 of the site’s 134 acres are dedicated as public parks and green spaces.
Kobayashi is thrilled, saying in the interview Monday he was “kind of pleasantly surprised” that the project, decades in the making, is coming to fruition.
The retail spaces will border a waterfront plaza, about the size of Victoria’s Centennial Square, he says.
“We envision pubs, wine bars, restaurants, coffee shops, doctors offices, fitness facilities and maybe even a hotel,” said Reliance Properties president Jon Stovell.
He says The Beachlands will “potentially generate 10,500 full-time direct, indirect and induced jobs,” adding that construction has a multiplier effect on the local economies.
“The jobs that are going to come with this are absolutely going to be of great benefit to the citizens of Colwood, and it’s great that Beachlands, Reliance, and Seacliff have decided to go ahead with this,” Kobayashi told CHEK News.
A joint release from the city and developers Reliance and Seacliff Properties notes the groundbreaking has been envisioned for 25 years.
The site off Metchosin Road was formerly a rock and gravel operation, and in the late 1990s, Colwood council started planning for development. The rock mine closed in 2008, then Seacliff bought the land in 2017 before partnering with Reliance in 2022.
The developers are investing billions.
“After seven years of planning, public consultation and various approvals, we are thrilled to put our $1.2 billion investment in motion and start construction of The Beachlands,” said Georgia Desjardins, director of development at Seacliff.
In the release, Desjardins calls it “a world-class seaside community that will contribute much-needed housing, jobs and spending in Colwood and the region.”
But city infrastructure needs to accommodate a development this big.
“We know where we are with water, we know where we are with power. The big limiting factor right now is sewage capacity, and traffic, the roads,” said Kobayashi.
“It’s been a wake-up call for us because things that were decided on five 10 years ago are not applicable,” he added.
Perhaps a commuter ferry service between Royal Beach and downtown Victoria would relieve vehicle traffic, but Kobayashi says that’s not on council’s agenda.
“It’s not on the conversation for this particular council, and to be completely transparent with you, I campaigned against it. And it’s not that it’s not an option. If the option is put on the table and it makes sense at that time, I would absolutely be in full support of it,” he said.
Under the formerly proposed ferry route, a boat would carry up to 300 passengers and take about 20 minutes to reach its destination.
“My head has always been on the LRT (light rail transit). It makes a lot more sense,” added Kobayashi.
“You have so many dollars in that money basket, so where do we put it? I believe it should be in the LRT.”
Developers say initial construction at The Beachlands includes a 12,000-square-foot presentation centre and two multi-family buildings totalling 181 homes, including townhomes.
The presentation centre should be complete by the summer of 2025, while construction on the multi-family building should wrap up a year later.
Construction should last about 15 years.