‘The skyline is going to change dramatically’: Building boom underway in downtown Nanaimo

'The skyline is going to change dramatically': Building boom underway in downtown Nanaimo

Camellia Noel is a hard-working woman who’s feeling left behind in Nanaimo‘s surging growth.

For her, there’s a sting to watching the new condo building going up outside the downtown grocery store she works full time — because she can only dream of moving into it.

“It depends on the price range, but there’s been nothing. I’ve been looking for a year and a half to find a place that’s reasonable right now on my income that I can move into,” said Noel.

“I have advertised for a roommate, and I am sort of living with a stranger just to make ends meet.”

As for home ownership, “I can’t afford to ever own anything,” she told CHEK News.

“I would have to double my income to even think about it.”

Average single-family home prices have risen rapidly in Nanaimo, and the rental vacancy rate dwindled with it.

Yet more people move to this still relatively affordable community compared to Victoria and Vancouver.

“And they can hopefully do so, generation after generation. Nanaimo’s not a place to come from anymore. Nanaimo’s a place to move to,” said Mayor Leonard Krog.

So, the building boom to meet surging demand is on.

In 2022, building permits totalled $410 million — second only to the pre-pandemic building explosion year of 2019.

READ MORE: Nanaimo sees banner year for building permit values in 2022 as city grows

A look around Nanaimo’s downtown reveals empty plots coming to life with machinery cranes and workers making building permits a reality.

“There’s no question the skyline is going to change dramatically in the next few years because of the amount of building,” said Krog.

“In terms of the number of people to be housed, you’re talking thousands, very easily, and in the next few years. Just in the developments that are in the ground and under construction now.”

A vacant Telus lot on Wallace Street is being transformed into a six-storey complex of 195 rental housing units and is expected to house 500 people at completion.

One block away, the old Caledonia medical clinic is being torn down to become six storeys of 163 rental units.

Krog says the city is speeding up its building permit approval process under a provincial pilot program to ensure multi-family housing units in the planning stages break ground quickly.

“There will be a lot more people living in the downtown core, getting their services, buying their groceries,” he added.

An increased housing supply is also expected to lower prices in Nanaimo that are becoming out of reach for people like Noel.

It’s a future the Nanaimo mom says she’ll have to see for herself to believe.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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