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Double-size McClung library with 18-storey residential tower wins backing from Saanich council

The plan is to double the size of the library branch at the southwest corner of McKenzie Avenue and Cedar Hill Road, and include 210 lower-cost rental housing units.
The Greater Victoria Public Library’s Nellie McClung Branch on Cedar Hill Road. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A plan to double the size of the Nellie McClung library branch and add an up-to-18-storey tower of affordable housing took a step forward on Monday, as Saanich council unanimously endorsed a rezoning application for the project.

The plan is to develop the library branch site at the ­southwest corner of McKenzie Avenue and Cedar Hill Road as a mixed-use project with up to 210 lower-cost housing units.

“This is one of the most ambitious affordable-housing projects in the region, and the fact that Saanich is using land that it owns and putting that forward for a project deserves to be championed,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

The project is a partnership between the District of Saanich, the Capital Region Housing Corporation and the province.

Saanich will provide the land and will pay to rebuild the library using its Growing Communities Fund, while B.C. Housing will provide $30 million to the Capital Region Housing Corporation to build the affordable housing.

Mayor Dean Murdock said it’s the first time the district has used property it owns to create affordable housing. “I think it really is the way forward to create true ­affordability in our community,” he said.

“We can use this as a way to renew some of our assets and facilities that are amenities to the community and use that space to eliminate some significant costs to housing — the cost of land.”

The development would change the land use from a single-storey 14,000-square-foot library to a mixed project that will include a ground-floor library of up to 30,000 square feet, as many as 210 lower-cost rental housing units and underground parking.

“I’m very excited to see this starting to move its way through the system,” said Coun. Karen Harper

She noted the housing will remain lower-cost rental for the life of the building.

“This is an excellent ­example of us putting our land, all of Saanich’s land, to use to provide housing in a way that’s very meaningful for this ­community.”

Concerns were raised about the height of the building and size of the project, but Plant said an 18-storey tower in that area may not be out of place in a few years, as Saanich has identified the area as suitable for increased density.

It’s across the street from the University Heights project, which is adding 600 units of housing.

District staff have suggested construction of the Nellie McClung project could get underway in 2025.

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