11-storey rental building OK’d for Uptown; tallest in Saanich

A proposal for the largest rental building in Saanich —and the tallest building of any kind — has received an unanimous nod from municipal council.

The 11-storey building at Carey Road and Ravine Way will complete the four-stage Uptown complex and provide 134 apartment units and seven townhouses adjacent to the Whole Foods site, due to open within weeks.

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It will have a stepped design, going from four storeys to 11.

Carol Hamill, president of the Mountview Colquitz Community Association, called the building “well designed and nice looking” — vastly preferable to the “horrible” 30-storey-tower contemplated by developer Morguard Investments Ltd. about 10 years ago.

But commercial traffic has increased in the neighhourhood and the residences will compound that. Already, right turns are permitted on Carey Road, something project proponents said would not happen, the association said.

Still, she told a public hearing that the building will be “be a landmark, visible for miles” that makes an exciting statement as the first piece of the skyline for the Saanich core.

Mayor Richard Atwell noted how far the site has come since its Town and Country days, when the Saanich end of Douglas Street was basically “a large parking lot with stores at the back — it’s turned out to be a very good project.”

But it’s the kind of place that people have to enter to experience, given its fortress-style exterior facing roadways, he said. To the good, much of the parking, including for Walmart, is underground. For such a large project, first approved in 2007, opposition at the public hearing was minimal, he said.

Morguard did not give a start and completion date at the public hearing.

Hamill said the solution to traffic issues requires Saanich council to take control from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, for Vernon Avenue and Blanshard Street on one side of Uptown and Douglas Street on the other as they are no longer highways but used by cyclists, pedestrians and jaywalkers.

The tallest Saanich apartment is currently six storeys at Burnside and Tillicum roads, with the eight-storey Shire on Quadra under construction and the tallest office building at eight storeys, said Jarret Matanowitsch, Saanich manager of current planning.

The Uptown residential units will sit atop at least two storeys of retail space of 5,157 square metres.

Most of the units — 104 — will have one bedroom.

While council sought to have some units designated as “affordable,” Morguard said that 60 per cent will be within the income range of a couple each working full-time at $15 an hour based on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. levels for spending under 30 per cent of pre-tax wages.

Hamill said she does not believe workers at Uptown will be able to afford rent for the apartments.

The apartments will fill the gigantic hole left for several years adjacent to Whole Foods, when development slowed in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, Atwell said.

Parking space requirements were reduced from 1.5 per unit to 0.55 — with the idea that unused retail parking could be accessed and Morguard would provide discounted passes to ride buses from B.C. Transit stops near the building.

kdedyna@timescolonist.co

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