Huge distribution centre proposed for Victoria airport lands

A “last-mile” distribution centre larger than Bay Centre in downtown Victoria is planned on 7.7 acres of ­Victoria International Airport’s ­industrial land.

Developer York Properties of ­Edmonton will construct the building for a client whose name is not being released yet, York spokesman Matt Woolsey said Tuesday.

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Sidney council reviewed York’s plans on Monday and voted to ask staff to look at issues such as traffic and potential impact on the 100-plus homes in the adjacent Galaran Road neighbourhood. Council members are also hoping to hear feedback from Sidney residents.

The report is due at council on May 10, one day prior to a May 11 deadline to weigh in with the Victoria Airport Authority, which manages the airport.

Although the industrial site is within Sidney’s boundaries, the town does not have approval rights over the ­development. That’s up to the airport authority because the land is federal.

Construction costs would top $50 million, Woolsey said. “It’s a big project for all of us.”

The development is moving through the approval process with the airport authority, Woolsey said, adding if York is able to build the distribution centre, it will sign a lease and start construction as soon as necessary permits are granted.

Ideally, the centre would open in spring 2022, Woolsey said.

In last-mile centres, trucks bring in merchandise and packages are then delivered by drivers in smaller ­vehicles.

There will be room for close to 800 parking stalls, with drivers leaving at various times, he said.

It would be typical in such a centre to have about 30 warehousing jobs per shift, with three shifts per day, plus drivers, Woolsey said. “It’s a large number of jobs.”

Plans call for a 75-foot-tall, 486,937-square-foot building, including a parkade.

By comparison, Bay Centre is just over 400,000 square feet. The Thrifty Foods warehouse on airport lands is 250,000 square feet.

The site is bordered by McDonald Park and Galaran roads. The front of the project would be prominent as the entrance to the Sidney’s industrial area, town staff said in a report.

Woolsey called its design “cutting edge.”

Large trucks would access the site via a driveway on McDonald Park Road and there would be two other driveways on Galaran.

Rod Hunchak, director of airport ­development, said the centre fits the ­airport authority’s efforts to help develop an economic generator and hub on its lands. It would be among several other industrial operations, some devoted to transportation.

“I think it’s a really good development, considering municipalities are looking for ways to launch economic recovery.”

The authority is in discussions with ­Sidney on ways to resolve some traffic issues, Hunchak said.

Although the height is above what is normally permitted, it remains lower than required under federal rules for airports, he said.

Currently, the site is grass and gravel.

“It’s a major change to what is there,” said Coun. Barbara Fallot, who called the prospect of new jobs exciting and said the development would add to the tax base. “We have to look at this very, very carefully.

“I do have a concern about the ­traffic.”

Sidney can only give “courtesy comments” on the project, she said, urging Woolsey to foster community engagement.

Coun. Peter Wainwright, who expressed concern about compatibility with the Galaran neighbourhood and impact on traffic and infrastructure in the area, urged anyone with concerns to get in touch with the town before May 10.

Questions about the project can be emailed to yorkproject@victoriaairport.com.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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