New owners revive and revamp delayed Colwood developments

New owners are investing in long-awaited Colwood developments, revamping plans with a range of housing types for thousands of new residents.

Given the scope of Royal Bay, at 419 acres, and Ocean Grove, at nearly 40 acres, it’s likely hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on infrastructure and housing in coming years. These are among the largest of a number of projects underway in the West Shore.

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Parkside at Royal Bay, another development, is offering 57 freehold homes. In Langford, Ecoasis bought Bear Mountain resort last year, from HSBC Bank Canada and is continuing with plans to enhance it as a resort and residential community.

After buying Royal Bay in 2012, British Columbia Investment Management Corp. is reviewing plans approved by Colwood in 1998 for a mixed-use site with up to 2,800 homes.

“It’s a similar vision but with modern-day planning principles,” a member of the corporation’s planning team said Wednesday. The updated proposal includes sustainability features, is pedestrian-oriented, and would accommodate different types of transportation in what could eventually be home to 7,000 residents.

“It would be a complete community with a variety of housing forms and types,” he said, including commercial uses in a village centre and on the waterfront.

Construction could start this fall to develop single-family lots in the first stage of the project, near the new Royal Bay Secondary School.

Initial build-outs at Royal Bay would be for single-family lots, with 21 available first, followed by 92 lots, said Alan Haldenby, Colwood planning director. A subdivision application has been submitted to Colwood.

A proposal for changes to other parts of the Royal Bay site has also gone to the municipality. Supporting information is expected from the proponent in a week or so, Haldenby said. “They are not making drastic changes, I would say.”

Some zoning changes would be required and would probably be dealt with next year, he said.

The new owners of Royal Bay and Ocean Grove are prepared to develop sites over the long term and in response to market demand. This kind of development requires owners with deep pockets. The B.C. Investment Management Corp., for example, handles a global investment portfolio that, as of March 2012, is worth more than $100 billion.

Some local developments have foundered. The most high-profile is the mixed-use Capital City Centre that was being developed by League group of companies, now under a court-monitored restructuring process.

Colwood Acting Mayor Judith Cullington said she is pleased that Royal Bay and Ocean Grove owners are moving ahead. Ocean Grove was once called Aquattro; work was halted after 88 units were built and it went into receivership. Vancouver’s Seacliff Properties bought the property last year. The project is well-capitalized, said Ian Porter, Seacliff’s director of real estate.

A rezoning application for Ocean Grove was submitted to Colwood after meetings were held with area residents, Porter said. The company is keeping a duck pond that neighbours value.

The new plan includes single-family and lower-density housing on the south side of the site, he said. “That’s probably one of the bigger changes.”

Also proposed are smaller footprints for some buildings and height increases, to 16 storeys from 12, for multi-family units at the highest part of the property, he said. Under the application, a total of 870 units could be developed.

More than 40 per cent of the sloping site would be green space. An extensive trail network will better connect with the community. A fisheries rehabilitation project also will be completed, he said.

This is a corrected version of the original story.

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