Developer seeks to expand Esquimalt Lagoon housing project

The developer behind the $400-million Ocean Grove project bordering Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood hopes to add more units and different kinds of homes, as well as commercial space.

Vancouver-based Seacliff Properties has amended its application to the municipality, adding townhouses, duplexes and single-family dwellings to existing and planned condominiums.

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About 200 additional units are also proposed, bringing the total count to 870 units across the site east of Heatherbell Road, between Seafield Road and Lagoon Road.

“I would characterize them as evolutionary changes, as opposed to wholesale changes,” said Iain Bourhill, director of planning for Colwood.

The amendments, part of a rezoning bylaw application and an application to change the city’s official community plan, have had their second reading by council.

There will be an opportunity for public consultation toward the end of March, planner Ivo Van der Kamp said, before council considers any changes.

Seacliff describes the architectural style as “contemporary and modern, but not sterile and soulless.” Plans include enhancement of the landscape and riparian area, as well as glass walls to connect the inside with nature. The property is adjacent to Royal Roads University grounds.

Five types of housing are envisioned, including low-rise and mid-rise apartment buildings, townhouses, single-family homes and duplexes. The maximum 13-storey mid-rise towers would be at the west end of the site. Four- to six-storey low-rise buildings would be on the site’s north and south-west, and townhouses, single-family homes and duplexes would be toward the eastern end. A park is planned for the bottom third of the site.

Planned commercial space would be used for businesses such as coffee shops or corner stores.

“They’re not talking about huge grocery stores,” said Coun. Gordie Logan, chairman of the planning committee.

Logan said he’s excited about the development, which has been stalled for so long. “Although the density is probably higher than I would have envisioned, it looks to be quite a quality development and I think it will have positive effects on the neighbourhood.”

Ian Porter, Seacliff’s director of real estate, said there’s plenty of space for more units. “It was over 50 acres before the dedication of parklands, so even with those additional units, it’s still a medium-density development,” he said.

Diversifying housing options is a way of responding to a changing market, Porter said. It’s a multi-year undertaking, so the development will accommodate any changes in demand.

Porter couldn’t say how much the units might cost.

Coun. Jason Nault, who voted against the plans, said he’s most concerned about the elimination of a road connection between Seafield Road and Goldfinch Road.

Mayor Carol Hamilton said she supports the proposal, despite concerns. “We’re going to have smaller homes, smaller lots, which should mean more affordable housing, although sometimes we get disappointed with the outcome.”

Seacliff bought the property in 2013, after former developer Aquattro went into receivership after 88 units were built. Aquattro originally planned 563 residential units.

“Enter a new developer, new ideas, new enthusiasm, new money. And we have to open our minds up again to be able to see what’s there,” Hamilton said. “In time, it could become a community jewel location.”

Construction is set to begin on the nearby $90-million Pacific Landing project as early as April.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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