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24-storey rental tower to bring long-promised residential units to Uptown

The 318-unit project is planned for the last vacant lot at Uptown, at its northwest corner.
Uptown shopping centre. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Saanich council has cleared the path for what will be the district’s tallest building, a 24-storey rental-housing project at Uptown.

The project is planned for the last vacant lot at Uptown, at the northwest corner of the shopping ­centre, west of the Whole Foods building facing Carey Road.

It’s being hailed as the final piece of the Uptown puzzle, adding a long-promised residential component.

Council unanimously endorsed amending a development permit to allow construction of the mixed-use project, which will include 318 rental-housing units and six commercial spaces.

“This is the piece that we’ve been waiting for” to finish it, said Coun. Susan Brice. She noted that council previously endorsed other residential projects at Uptown that never got off the ground.

“Always, Uptown was to have a residential component — that was the kind of magic of the whole thing,” she said. “I think it’s just fantastic that they’re going to go ahead with this.”

In 2017, Saanich council approved a development permit for an 11-storey building with 134 rental apartments and townhouses and commercial space that was never built.

The new project will face onto Carey Road with commercial uses at ground level.

Mayor Dean Murdock said the project is a big part of establishing the Uptown-Douglas corridor as Saanich’s downtown and city centre.

“This is the heart of Saanich, it’s the crossroads of the South Island and it’s the logical place to put multi-storey buildings, Saanich’s tallest buildings, because it’s so well served by public transit, Lochside Trail, Galloping Goose Trail, a plethora of commercial services and amenities, parks and schools,” he said.

According to a staff report, the site allows for tower heights up to 24 storeys as outlined in the district’s Uptown Douglas Plan. There are projects in development for other towers reaching that height in the blocks between Saanich Road and the Victoria border at Tolmie Avenue.

Earlier this year, Saanich council endorsed terms of reference for staff to work on a pre-zoning and design project as part of establishing a city centre in the Uptown-Douglas area.

Staff are expected to recommended bylaw changes for reshaping the area to match the vision of the Uptown-Douglas plan.

The comprehensive land-use plan, adopted in 2022, is designed to transform the area, over the next 20 to 30 years, into mixed-use, walkable neighbourhoods that will serve as the heart of Saanich.

The area is currently dominated by car dealerships, businesses and light industrial use.

The hope is that new zoning designations will allow the district to encourage the redevelopment of existing properties into mixed-use projects with dense residential components.

Zoning would also help to conserve existing light-industrial uses by establishing zones for “mixed employment” that blend industrial, commercial and residential uses.

In the plan, Oak Street is re-imagined as a main street with businesses lining the road, residential development rising above them, bike lanes and a pedestrian promenade.

At the same time, Audley Street, currently blocked off to the east of Douglas Street, would be extended to act as a laneway between Douglas and Oak streets.

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