Look at Colwood these days and it’s as though a conveyor belt is rolling out steady announcements about arts, culture, education, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of planned investment in commercial, light industrial and residential projects.
“What isn’t happening in Colwood right? That’s sort of where we are at,” says Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.
Colwood is becoming more economically diverse and self-sufficient. It is smaller in population and size than neighbour Langford, a powerhouse for growth in the region.
“Colwood is at a really pivotal time right now where we’re shifting from a bedroom community to something very dynamic and I think dynamic is good,” Martin said.
“I talk about trying to create pillars within our community around the arts, around culture, around parks.” It’s about creating a lifestyle where citizens can get outdoors and enjoy its seven kilometres of waterfront and more than 50 parks, he said.
“We are not building out to be a suburb of Victoria. We are sincerely attempting to build our own city — our own city that supports itself.”
The projects underway and planned will deliver local payrolls and permanent jobs, allowing residents to live and work in their own community.
“We are going to be employing thousands — and I mean that literally — thousands of construction workers in the next five years,” Martin said.
The official community plan states: “While many residents in Colwood are employed, nearly all leave Colwood to work. The relatively small commercial base not only limits local employment opportunities, but it also limits the tax base.”
Colwood’s growing population of about 17,000 is predicted to reach 26,500 by 2038.
Construction value of new homes alone, built between January and July this year, is $36.478 million.
Mairi Campeau and husband Ryan, have lived in Colwood for a little more than two years, near Royal Bay. “We enjoy the abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, attainable housing and the short distance to downtown,” Mairi said.
“All of the new development in Colwood is exciting to us, in particular the proposed commercial node in Royal Bay, including the coffee shop. This really creates a complete community in Colwood and fosters a healthy/active lifestyle for young families.”
Two planned projects, GableCraft’s Latoria South development at Royal Bay, where it is already building on its Latoria North lands, and Seacliff Properties’ adjacent Royal Beach, would together create more than 5,000 new homes in a range of housing types, plus commercial areas with offices.
Sam Corcoran and his wife moved to Royal Bay in August after a year of house-hunting in Victoria, where they lived and where single family homes are typically pricier.
For close to $700,000, they found in a brand-new, three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot home with a full-height basement and a detached double garage, close to the water and hiking, he said. “It’s been fantastic. We have not regretted our decision for one moment.
“There is a real sense of community in Royal Bay. We know everybody who has moved onto our road.”
Corcoran, a financial adviser at the Co-operators in downtown Victoria, found that warnings about a long commute were groundless. It takes 26 minutes get downtown from home.
The mayor, a supporter of mass transit, said planned higher density housing will attract B.C. Transit, helping to improve transportation options. Martin said he will continue to pursue the idea of a passenger ferry link between Colwood at Royal Bay and downtown Victoria, even though B.C.’s transportation minister has put the idea on hold.
A decision needs to be made shortly because a ferry would need specific infrastructure built, he said.
Recent municipal wins include attracting the Royal B.C. Museum to Royal Bay, where a 14,000 square-metre building for archives, collections and research will be built. A new Netflix 10-episode series is being filmed in Colwood. And a new elementary school is going up at Royal Bay between Latoria Boulevard and Metchosin Road.
A $26-million office and warehouse complex for Victoria Shipyards is planned in the new Allandale district. Omicron Development Inc. and Lotus Capital Corp. are partnering in developing a 20-acre mixed use site at Veterans Memorial Parkway and Allandale Road, with an estimated build out value of $100 million.
Locally owned Big Wheel Burger has set up its fifth location using a trailer next to Corona Foods at 2155 Sooke Rd.
“We are all pretty excited to give it a go and we are really happy to be in Colwood. We wanted to be there for a while,” said founder Calen McNeil.
A reduced menu will be offered initially, Tuesdays to Saturdays. About seven new workers are being hired, with numbers expected to grow to 15 once the outlet moves to daily operation in about two months, he said.
None of the Big Wheel outlets are offering sit-down service these days because of the pandemic. The owners are looking for a bricks-and-mortar location in Colwood.
Frank Bourree, chair of the South Island Prosperity Partnership, sees “tremendous opportunity” in Colwood. “The demand and growth has been really pent-up out there.”
There’s plenty of opportunity for housing density, along with commercial and industrial space, he said.
“Colwood has sort of been in the shadow of Langford but it’s got great potential.”