Developers are hoping to transform a vacant plot of land in Saanich into an expansive, three-tower mixed-use development that would include the district’s very first Real Canadian Superstore.
Townline submitted an application to the district late last year, proposing 760 Tolmie Ave., the former site of Mayfair Lanes, be developed into a trio of purpose-built rental towers, standing 21-24 storeys tall with 555 units and commercial space below.
“They would be the largest towers that we have in Saanich, and they’re happening in an area that we consider Saanich’s downtown,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock told CHEK News Tuesday.
The 3.38-acre plot just north of Mayfair Shopping Centre has sat vacant for more than 16 years after the 10-pin bowling alley closed in 2006 and Loblaw, Real Canadian Superstores’ parent company, purchased it and tore it down with plans to build a grocery store.
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Only those hopes never materialized, leaving the property to sit empty for quite some time before Townline eventually bought the land with more extensive plans in the works.
“It’s one of our largest projects that we’ve worked on,” Stefan Slot, Townline’s vice president of development, told CHEK News. He compares it to the company’s other projects, including one comprised of several highrises in B.C.’s capital.
“It’s similar in size to our Hudson District project in Victoria and a few other largest projects that we’re working on in the Lower Mainland as well,” he said.
“We have a strong commitment to Victoria, Saanich and area, and it’s a great partner to have Loblaw with this project as well, who owned the development site for quite a number of years.”
Design plans submitted to the district show various amenities for residents, including dining, sport and recreation zones, event space, a dog run and private patios above the Superstore, which measures 100,000 square feet, according to Slot.
Plan fits with Uptown-Douglas vision: mayor
Murdock says the proposed development will help kick off the district’s plan to densify the stretch from Mayfair Mall to Uptown, in what officials are calling the Uptown-Douglas Plan. It aims to create a corridor where people can live, work and play.
“This one will allow us to start that process,” said Murdock.
“This one, of course, is right at the boundary with the City of Victoria. We hope this will start a transformation all the way along, between Blanshard and Douglas and Oak Street, taking us all the way up to Uptown. The plan is to increase density to create more homes…and to create livability.”
Tolmie Avenue borders the property to the south, Roderick Street to the north, Oak Street to the east, and Audley Crossing to the west.
The district received Townline’s rezoning and development permits on Dec. 21, 2022, and staff are currently reviewing the application. Only this time around, Slot’s hopeful the development process will be sped up.
“In our preliminary conversations with the district’s applying staff, they indicated the first round of review would be an expedited process, which is great because the sooner we can provide these rental homes to market, the better it is for everybody,” he said.
Rental prices up in the air
Slot’s unsure of starting rates for the rental units, though he says they will be priced at market rates.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2022 rental report released earlier this year ranked Victoria as the third most expensive market in Canada, only behind Vancouver and Toronto, with a two-bedroom averaging $1,699 per month.
But with developers hoping to break ground in 2024 and a construction period of around two-and-a-half years, Slot says prices are likely to change, especially if district staff have some feedback.
“Staff will be working with the developer on what types of price points will be available in this development,” said Murdock.
“It’s a large one, so there’s an opportunity to do some below-market as part of this development, but of course, that’s a conversation that needs to happen between now and when this gets to council for its final approval.”
Still, the units are a welcome addition, considering Saanich has “a very significant shortfall of rentals,” added the mayor. “Seeing a number of units coming online that create rental homes for people in the community will be a great benefit.
“We’re really pleased to see an application come forward that’s going to that first part of the transformation, creating more commercial services and creating more homes for people in this area where it really makes sense for people to put down roots.”
(Renderings courtesy: Townline)