$200 million rental housing plan pitched for View Royal

A rezoning application has been submitted for a $200-million rental housing proposal that would be built on a peninsula jutting into the middle of Portage Inlet in View Royal.

If approved by council, the Christie Point redevelopment would be the largest rental project the town has ever seen, Mayor David Screech said Thursday.

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The 15.8-acre strip of land is an environmentally sensitive area, surrounded by tidal mud flats and is home to a bird sanctuary.

Developer Realstar Management of Toronto is incorporating features to protect the shoreline and enhance and safeguard other natural features.

Realstar submitted its rezoning proposal in December, Screech said. It is too soon to say when it might come before council.

If approved by city hall, it would take three to four years to complete construction, said Heather Grey-Wolf, Realstar vice-president of development.

The project would result in 2,000 person years of employment, the company said.

Christie Point currently holds161 units in apartment buildings constructed in 1963.

Realstar bought the property in 2014 and is proposing to replace them with seven buildings. The new structures would stand within the footprints of existing buildings, Grey-Wolf said.

New buildings would stand four, five and six storeys tall, and hold a total of 473 units, down from 520 units proposed earlier, Grey-Wolf said.

In response to concerns from stakeholders, heights were reduced. Earlier plans called for buildings up to nine storeys. Some residents objected to what they considered too much massing and wall-like structures.

New designs will be on the project’s website, christiepoint.ca, next week, she said.

Area residents have expressed concern about increased density on the property, and fear it will bring more noise and traffic.

Some Christie Point renters worry it may be difficult to find new accommodation in the Victoria region, where the vacancy rate is a tight 0.5 per cent and rents have climbed year-over-year, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Its fall report said an average one-bedroom apartment rents for $912 a month.

Grey-Wolf said an important factor in this project is the new rental housing it will bring to the region.

The bulk of the $200 million development budget will go toward construction costs, she said. That includes $500,000 to be spent on the intersection at Shoreline Drive and the Island Highway, another $200,000 on Shoreline Drive improvements such as a new sidewalk and street lights. A total of $1.5 million in building permit fees will go to View Royal. Another $1 million will go to the region’s affordable housing fund.

Plans call for buildings to meet LEED system environmental standards or equivalents.

A variety of unit types would be built. It is too soon to state what rents might be, Grey-Wolf said.

Because construction would be completed in phases, some existing tenants would have the option of relocating into the new project, she said. However, that would not be possible for everyone.

The company will give tenants six months notice (up from the legislated minimum of two months), plus moving allowance or assistance, along with disconnection and re-connection of services, and covering the cost of mail forwarding for six months.

“We recognize that this relocation is the most difficult part of this project.”

Environmental features include implementing the Greenshores program to support environmental sustainability along the shoreline, Grey-Wolf said. A planned kayak launch will direct paddlers to one location to discourage use of other parts of the waterfront, she said.

Other initiatives include a new path system to divert people away from sensitive areas, salt marsh and beach grass restoration, retention of a grove of oak trees, restoration of vegetation, and a fenced off-leash area for dogs.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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