A pair of Vancouver-based developers say they will inject $1.2 billion into the massive Royal Beach residential and commercial development in Colwood, creating about 10,500 jobs over the next 15 years.
Reliance Properties, known for its Janion and Northern Junk developments in downtown Victoria, is partnering with Seacliff Properties to build out the 135-acre parcel, with 1.4 kilometres of shoreline, starting with road improvements into the site this spring at Latoria and Metchosin roads along with work on a central plaza.
Royal Beach will be a collection of neighbourhoods totalling 2,850 single-family houses, townhomes and condominiums ranging from six to 12 storeys. Thousands of jobs are expected to be created in construction and in the commercial buildings and retail spaces as they rise.
Just over 47 acres of the site will be dedicated to public parks and green space.
Together with the Royal Bay developments already underway on the other side of Metchosin Road, the 500-acre former gravel pit will add thousands of new homes and residents to Colwood, which is expected to grow its population by 35 per cent to about 22,700 by 2028.
Georgia Desjardins, director of development for Seacliff Properties, said Royal Beach presents a unique opportunity to develop the last significant waterfront lands in Colwood, “creating a new local, regional and national destination.”
“To best realize the potential of Royal Beach, we wanted to work with a strong partner like Reliance Properties, who shares our vision and has a tremendous track record.”
Jon Stovell, chief executive of Reliance, said the company has been looking for some time to build a quality development on the West Shore. Reliance is also reimagining 6.7 acres of Victoria’s downtown in what would be one of the biggest developments in the city that could include a new home for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
“Residential and commercial construction are significant contributors to employment with a ripple effect across the community,” Stovell said. “As each phase completes, Royal Beach will bring hundreds of new residents and workers to Colwood who will create millions of dollars in economic benefits for local businesses for the lifetime of those businesses.”
The site had been a a rock and gravel mine for more than a century where aggregates were loaded onto barges on the shore. The pit was exhausted in 2008, and Seacliff bought the site in 2017. After years of planning and public consultation, the City of Colwood adopted a new sub-area plan and zoning bylaw for Royal Beach last year.
Desjardins called it a rare opportunity.
“Other seaside communities in B.C., like Coal Harbour and Olympic Village, were industrial sites that became coveted, world-class communities in which to live, work, play and visit,” she said. “Royal Beach will be Vancouver Island’s most distinct waterfront community.”
Stovell said Royal Beach’s retail component will be largely smaller shops, markets and restaurants and include a brew pub. “There will not be big-box components.”
Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said it was a historic day for the city. He said the area, on the traditional lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, once contained a longhouse.
“A longhouse is about community and bringing family together,” Martin said. “I’m so excited because here we are 2,000 years later creating a community again on these shared community lands.”
Stovell said land for a ferry terminal for a proposed route from Royal Beach to downtown Victoria will be set aside in the planning.
But how long that land will be reserved will depend upon a provincial government feasibility study on whether a commuter ferry will be cost effective. Details of the study are still being worked out, Martin said.
He said it will take a year or two to complete the study and more time to work out shoreline details with the federal government. “The sooner we get to this, the better,” he said, noting the landwill become increasingly valuable.
Royal Beach has the potential of adding about 4,000 new residents and brings with it transportation issues. Martin said in an earlier interview improved transportation facilities such as park-and-ride, commuter rail, bike paths and a ferry system would help to address those issues.