Colwood has new designs on city centre

Plans have been revealed for Colwood’s City Centre development, giving councillors hope that the site may finally be on track to become a hub of activity.

Vancouver-based Onni Group has submitted a development application to city staff for a mixed-use complex on the 12.5-acre lot. It would include about 150,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, as well as about 284 rental housing units for students and families.

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“It’s really, really good to see activity getting underway. It’s been a sore sight in everyone’s eyes, with it sitting there empty and non-active,” Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said.

The Colwood Corners lot, bordered by Sooke, Jerome and Belmont roads, near the junction with Goldstream Avenue, was to be the site of a $1.2-billion project with 16 highrises and several other buildings. Construction was halted in spring 2013 after the developer ran out of money.

Ownership of the property — now a large hole in the ground with concrete foundation work — was transferred to Onni from a League Assets subsidiary for $17.5 million in a deal approved by B.C. Supreme Court.

Onni’s plans show one- to five-storey buildings.

The site already hosts London Drugs and Coast Capital Savings, and Onni has advertised plans to host grocery and liquor anchors.

No one from Onni was available to comment.

City staff will review the development application for the property, and council will vote on rezoning or other density changes, if required. “There’s a real chance, if Onni hasn’t varied plans too much and if it is staying within zoning and density thresholds, that we may not see a whole lot of decision-making [requirements],” Hamilton said.

Coun. Gordie Logan, chairman of the city’s planning and land-use committee, said he is most excited by the inclusion of rental housing. “There’s a huge need for rental housing in Colwood and the location is perfect because it’s in our downtown, it’s close to transit, trails and West Shore Parks and Rec,” he said.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. put the capital region’s vacancy rate at about 0.6 per cent in October, the most recent data available.

A survey by rental search service Padmapper showed people in Greater Victoria are paying the third-highest rents among 25 major Canadian cities. The median rent for a one-bedroom suite in May was $1,100.

Logan said councillors are also hoping for diversity in retail tenants, attractive design and outdoor spaces such as café patios and pedestrian-friendly walkways.

Council is keen to see work begin as soon as possible, he said.

“A positive thing, from our viewpoint, is they started removing all the old signage for Capital City Centre, which means they’re serious.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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