New life for Victoria-Oak Bay border

The walls started crumbling down on the Oak Bay border on Friday as Abstract Developments began construction of its mixed-use Village Walk project.

The $8-million project will have 22 residences above 5,500 square feet of commercial space in five units and is expected to breathe some life to the west end of the Oak Bay strip.

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“This will bring a vitality to what we call the west village of Oak Bay. It provides an economic base for the stores and brings a sense of renewal to this end of the village,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

Oak Bay council didn’t have much of a say in the development which is wholly contained in Victoria.

The Victoria-Oak Bay boundary is on Foul Bay Road, but Jensen said their council did offer unanimous support.

Victoria council, after some early reservations, unanimously approved the project in November.

According to Mike Miller, principal of Abstract Developments, which has been planning this development for more than four years, the idea of adhering to a mixed-use plan with commercial at grade maintains energy and life at street level.

“It’s how people are developing now. The commercial component maintains vitality,” Miller said, noting they already have two agreements in place for commercial space.

Miller said the commercial space will feature 16-foot overheight ceilings and some mezzanines, then two floors of “high quality, spacious units” topped with four penthouse units.

“We are not looking at micro-suites here like in downtown,” he said.

The suites will range in size between 860 and 1,500 square feet and range in cost from $499,900 to more than $1 million for the penthouse units.

While demolition of the three existing buildings started Friday, excavation of the site will begin at the end of the month with a target of starting full construction in April or May and completing the project in the fall of 2014.

Abstract believes it will be able to reclaim wood, copper and some mechanical equipment from the three buildings being torn down.

The reclaimed wood from joists and flooring is expected to be used for furniture.

Miller said between 60 and 70 per cent of material from the largest of the three existing buildings on the site is likely to be recycled.

This project adds to the reasonable start to the construction year in the region.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s first-quarter market outlook suggested the Victoria region is forecast to see 1,800 new housing units started this year, a 5.9 per cent increase over 2012.

It’s off to a decent start, as the federal agency released figures Friday showing homebuilding is ahead of last year’s pace.

Over the first two months of the year, there have been 207 total starts compared with 198 over the same period last year, with 142 multi-family units coming out of the ground in January and February compared with 134 in those months last year.

Year-to-date single family starts remain virtually unchanged with 65 so far this year, up from 64 last year.

February saw 115 total housing starts, with 76 multi-family units and 39 single-family homes, compared with 83 multiples and 33 detached homes in February 2012.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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