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Saanich approves $250M Nigel Valley plan, seen as ‘second downtown’ for region

A $250-million housing and social-programs development in Saanich, seen as creating a second downtown for the region, has been given the green light.

A $250-million housing and social-programs development in Saanich, seen as creating a second downtown for the region, has been given the green light.

Saanich council unanimously approved the Nigel Valley comprehensive development zone to applause from the audience at a public hearing late Tuesday night.

About 25 people spoke at the hearing with the majority expressing support for the project, which is to be built in an area near Saanich Municipal Hall, roughly bounded by Vernon and Darwin avenues and Lochside Trail and Saanich Road. The Saanich Plaza, Gateway Village and Uptown shopping and office developments are also nearby.

B.C. Housing is leading the project on behalf of non-profit groups, including Broadmead Care Society, Island Community Health, Garth Homer Society and Greater Victoria Housing Society.

With Saanich council’s approval, the project has cleared its largest hurdle. There remain housekeeping matters, mainly involving a covenant, before the deal is sealed.

Over the five to seven years of construction, each agency will have to come before council to request a development permit for their building, which will allow for more community involvement.

The city’s planning department has been given direction from council to expedite the project.

Architect Franc D’Ambrosio and Malcolm McNaughton, B.C. Housing’s director of regional development for Vancouver Island, presented the plans to Saanich council, noting it will triple the number of housing units, replace some aging buildings, introduce park space and calm traffic along Vernon Avenue.

The number of housing units is expected to grow from today’s 186 to nearly 800.

Mayor Richard Atwell said the massive development of supportive housing, market housing and affordable housing in the Saanich-Douglas corridor will become a second downtown in the region.

“Over the next 10 to 20 years, we are going to see significant changes in this area, which is also the municipal precinct,” he said. “It’s going to bring a lot of housing to the core of Saanich where there is shopping, easy access to transportation. It’s where the density needs to go, and I think it fits very well with a prosperous Saanich.”

The proposal would see the Nigel Valley become home to one five-storey building and one that’s 16 storeys, which would be the tallest in Saanich. The 16-storey building remains controversial despite assurances from the architects that they will work with the community on the design and that the building will appear lower because the site is on a slope.

The Nigel Valley development will see residential-care units increase to 50 from 25 and affordable-rental units leap to 441 from 160. Housing with supports will total 25 units, and there will be 40 assisted-living units, which don’t exist on the site now. A 255-unit market-priced housing development will subsidize the other units.

It will be a complicated manoeuvre to shuffle all of the agencies and still provide services while constructing and redeveloping each new building in a phased approach, Atwell said. “It will be an active campus.”

He said with a development this complex, city staff are due recognition for the “many, many years” of work that went on behind the scenes.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com