An excavator pushed over the old building at the corner of Esquimalt and Head streets on Friday to make way for a 10-storey mixed-use project with a planned medical facility on the lower two floors.
Lexi Development Group, of West Vancouver, won rezoning from city council for the project after it shaved down its initial plan for 12 storeys on the sloping site.
Babak Nikbakhtan, Lexi chief executive, was at the site to monitor the demolition. “It is a big moment here, we are all excited.”
Lexi owns the site, which runs along Head Street from Esquimalt Road to Wollaston Street.
Talks are underway with Island Health and a local group representing family practitioners in the hopes of establishing some kind of medical facility in the building, he said, but nothing has been confirmed.
If all goes well, construction could start in six months and would likely take between 24 and 30 months, he said.
Because plans are still being refined, no construction estimate has been worked out yet.
Three townhouses facing Wollaston Street will be part of the development on its lower level. The upper eight floors will house 66 condominiums. Units are to include bachelor, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, and range from about 570 square feet to almost 1,000 square feet, state documents at city hall. The project includes three levels of parking and roof-top gardens.
The start of marketing the condos will depend on public health guidelines from the province as it responds to the COVID-19 virus, Nikbakhtan said.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who also turned out to watch the demolition, is focused on seeing a medical facility go into the building, saying that 65 per cent of the municipality’s residents do not have their own general practitioner.
The municipality has been in also been in talks with Island Health and the family practice organization, she said.
“Everybody is working hard to get us to the place where we will have more medical practitioners in the community,” she said.
As discussions continue, “there seems to be a true commitment by everybody that recognizes that Esquimalt really is in dire straits for needing more medical offices.”
This is the latest major development major in Esquimalt. In the past five years, Desjardins figures about 1,500 residential units have been approved.
Because the project will deliver more density, it will bring “more vibrancy to that street corner,” she said.
The two-storey building that had been on the site was not being used.
As the number of residential units goes up, that will increase the commercial values in the area and increase diversity, too, she said.
“Of course, it is a greater tax base for us.”