Major rental project proposed for centre of Esquimalt

A Calgary company has bought 14 single-family houses in the heart of Esquimalt, where it proposes to replace the older homes with two five-storey rental buildings.

Plans call for a total of 213 units rented at market rates at the Marin. The existing public art walkway in neighbouring Esquimalt Town Square would extend into the development, running between Carlisle Avenue and Lyall Street.

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Boardwalk General Partnership, part of Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust, once had a portfolio of rental properties in Greater Victoria, including Christie Point in View Royal. It has now returned to the capital region where it will own and operate its properties.

The company assembled lots in Esquimalt at 1207-1221 Carlisle Ave., 512 and 522 Fraser St., and 1212-1226 Lyall St.

A rezoning application has been submitted to city hall. The Marin meets the official community policy for medium-density development in that area with a five-storey building, lower than the six storeys allowed for in the official community plan, the developer said.

Boardwalk’s proposal comes as the capital region faces a desperate shortage of rental housing and rental costs are rising even as construction booms.

Esquimalt had 1,394 rental units proposed as of July of this year, staff report. Boardwalk’s plan has the most units of the projects awaiting rezoning or permit application approvals.

Jeffrey Klaus, Boardwalk REIT’s vice-president of asset management and development, said the goal is to supply units as “close to middle income as as possible.”

That is Boardwalk’s target market and where there is a great need for housing, he said this week.

The project would have studio, and one-, two- and three-bedroom units in pet-friendly buildings.

Plans include 213 underground parking spaces, some with electric chargers, as well as bicycle parking spaces, also with chargers.

Features include a living green wall, fitness centre, a community space, ground-level entrances to some units, and a rooftop terrace for barbeques, Klaus said.

The top two levels of the buildings would be stepped back. The buildings would total just over 163,000 square feet.

If all goes smoothly, construction could start by the end of 2022 at the earliest, finishing up in 18 to 24 months, Klaus said, adding that it’s too soon to estimate construction costs.

All but one of the 14 houses currenlty on the lots were built between 1908 and 1912 — the newest went up in 1956. Most are small one-storey houses. Assessments are generally in the $600,000s.

Klaus said the plan is to demolish the houses. But he also said Boardwalk will look into the possibility of some being relocated. It is not uncommon in Greater Victoria to see houses moved to make way for new development.

“I do know a number of them actually have a fair amount of kind of deferred maintenance on them and they would need quite a bit of capital kind of injected in them,” Klaus said, adding that some may not be able to withstand a move.

Vivian Finnerty, who owns a house on Lyall Street, supports Boardwalk’s plans and hopes that families with young people move in.

Kate Bell, who lives in the Town Square, said, “I’m definitely pro-development in Esquimalt … There’s a big need for rental so I get it.”

Esquimalt Acting Mayor Meagan Brame said some residents have asked about shading from the proposed buildings, construction noise and implications on traffic with emergency services close by.

These days, she said there’s no empty spaces left in the municipality for development. “We have redevelopment space in that something has to come down to go up.”

Council has asked staff to report on the implications of the current surge in development to see if the municipality’s infrastructure can handle upcoming construction, she said, and city hall is looking for early budget approval for an assessment to “make sure that we’re not building faster than we should.”

Esquimalt wants economic development and residents are needed to make it happen, Brame said. “It’s just finding that balance between density and our infrastructure and our quality of community.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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