Massive Saanich redevelopment goes to public hearing this fall

The $250-million Nigel Valley proposal that would permit social agencies to redevelop outdated buildings and add housing on nine acres near Uptown in Saanich is heading to public hearing this fall.

The proposal, developed over four years of consultation and planning, is to replace old facilities, boost housing units to 796 from 186, add a park, plaza, trees and plants, and improve roads.

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The plan represents an “innovative approach” for the site, Lauren English, project development manager for B.C. Housing, told councillors at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday.

“Our housing need is real, our housing need is now, and it is across the spectrum.”

B.C. Housing is leading a group of non-profit social organizations in a bid for a comprehensive development zone for Nigel Valley.

The proposal is about more than adding housing. It is aimed at reworking the property into an inclusive, diversified community. Some commercial outlets are also envisioned for the site.

B.C. Housing is looking to sell two lots — one striving for a building of up to 16 storeys and the other for five storeys.

If the proposal is approved, developers purchasing those sites would be able to build up to 215 units. The remaining 518 new units in the Nigel Valley plan would be either supportive or affordable housing.

The Broadmead Care Society, Island Community Mental Health, Garth Homer Society, Greater Victoria Housing Society and B.C. Housing agreed to take a fresh look at their lot boundaries to view the property as a “blank canvas,” English said.

All those organizations are long-standing social agencies in the community. They care for people with a range of needs, including seniors and those with developmental challenges.

English likened the complexities of the project to a Rubik’s cube, pointing to the work required to map out site development, plan for its various phases and figure out how to achieve an orderly transition from existing to new facilities.

Traffic calming on Vernon Avenue is also planned, along with new infrastructure and street frontages on Darwin, Nigel and Vernon avenues.

The project’s total cost is estimated at about $250 million and construction would likely be complete in five to seven years, English said.

Franc D’Ambrosio, an architect who has been working with B.C. Housing on the plan, said the redevelopment of Nigel Valley would be part of an “emerging core area of Saanich.”

The proposal allows for a cohesive and mixed-use “exemplary” neighbourhood.

The property would be transformed to a greener place from an extensively paved site, he said. Landscaping will be one of the “most crucial aspects of the Nigel Valley neighbourhood.”

It would include existing trees, restoration of some areas, and putting in hundreds of trees and other plants. The new square would incorporate rain gardens to clean water as it heads into Swan Lake, he said.

David Cheperdak, chief executive of Broadmead Care, which serves adults with disabilities, said there is an urgent need to replace Nigel House. “There are millions of dollars in deferred maintenance on that building. It was not built for the service we are providing today.”

Complete plans are in place for a new facility. The society is hoping to break ground on its new centre in summer 2019, he said.

John Schmuck, past-president of the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association, echoed the Mount View Colquitz Community Association in recommending limiting the height of the tallest building to 12 storeys. An additional four storeys could be sought by a developer as a density bonus. This would provide more oversight on the design of the eventual building, he said.

He urged Saanich to extend the plaza to the other side of Lochside Regional Trail to create a larger public gathering space.

A community seniors centre is also on Schmuck’s wish list.

Saanich councillors voted unanimously to forward the plan for a public hearing, which staff said would likely happen in September. After a public hearing, councillors will vote on whether to approve the bylaws that would permit the project to go ahead.

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