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Tsawout First Nation retools project on Saanich Peninsula

The Tsawout First Nation is taking a fresh look at what type of commercial development will best suit its Saanich Peninsula land after plans were scrapped for a 650,000-square-foot “power centre” on 62 acres.
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Tsawout First Nation councillor Allan Claxton at the future site of Jesken Town Centre.

The Tsawout First Nation is taking a fresh look at what type of commercial development will best suit its Saanich Peninsula land after plans were scrapped for a 650,000-square-foot “power centre” on 62 acres.

“It seems like the total big-box commercial developments just don’t cut it anymore,” Tsawout Coun. Allan Claxton said Wednesday.

No decisions have been made, but a revised Jesken Town Centre development might include one or two big-box stores with a mix of other outlets, Claxton said. “We have some very successful developers on board who are doing their due diligence to come together with a proposal, hopefully in the next five weeks.”

Tsawout is anticipating a new partner now that Vancouver-based PDG Investments is no longer involved.

Plans with PDG Investments fell through last year after the commercial retail market changed and the idea of a scaled-down development on 30 acres came up, said Claxton. That proposal did not work financially for the band.

The cost of the Tsawout Crossing overpass, estimated at between $17 million and $24 million and to be paid for by the developer, is part of the financial picture. Tsawout put out a call for letters of interest to developers a couple of months ago. The band is now dealing with four potential partners, all on the mainland, he said.

They have been asked to present more details and outline what will help pave the way for negotiations, he said. Tsawout’s goal is to develop something that would suit the whole Peninsula, Claxton said.

The Transportation Ministry has approved the interchange and access to the Patricia Bay Highway, subject to approval of a detailed design.

Claxton said Jesken is seen as a path to jobs, training and economic benefit for the 900-member band.

Consultants have also been hired by Tsawout to do a study of the highest and best use for the entire reserve, which stretches east to Island View beach, Claxton said.

Everything from housing to a marina and hotels will be considered, he said.

The Jesken Centre site is one of three major commercial complexes in the works on the Peninsula.

The Victoria Airport Authority and the Town of Sidney agreed in 2014 to develop 10 acres at the southwest corner of the Pat Bay Highway and Beacon Avenue to create a new gateway into the town. The federally owned land is leased to the airport, which can offer the site on a lease basis for up to 42 years.

Vancouver-based Omicron is eyeing the site. “We are completing a due diligence process at the end of which we intend to submit an application” to the Airport Authority, said Peter Laughlin, Omicron’s director on Vancouver Island. “That’s a great site.”

James Bogusz, airport authority vice-president of operations and development, noted open houses have been held for feedback on what is best for that corner. Suggestions included a grocery store, open markets and retail.

The third site would see redevelopment of 12 acres of the former Sandown race track, owned by the Randall family, working with Plat:form Properties Ltd. of Vancouver. If all goes according to plan, the Sandown commercial complex will open in 2017 after a one-year construction project, said Kyle Shury, a principal at Plat:form.

The $30-million development would be largely commercial, he said. “We are at the front end of the process. We are seeking tenants for the development.” They would like a grocery store as anchor.

The site went through a major planning process with North Saanich as a 160,000-square-foot project. That process still requires a rezoning application.