The re-development of Saanich’s University Heights is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Wesbuild, the company that owns the property, has submitted a second application to District staff for the redevelopment of University Heights.
Bentley Harris, the company’s director of development, explained that Wesbild has resubmitted for a development zoning permit from the District of Saanich after working with stakeholder and city staff to improve the application.
The community surrounding the University Heights property had several concerns about the first proposal presented to the public in 2018. Concerns regarded increased traffic in the area and a lack of affordable housing, Harris noted.
The new application alleviates the community’s traffic concerns for Cedar Hill Road by reducing the commercial components on that side of the property, he explained.
Another change was to the number of housing units and the percentage of rental units in the development. At first, Wesbild proposed about 300 units, but the second application includes 528 units varying in size from studios to three bedroom spaces to address varying housing needs, Harris said. All 528 units will also be rentals in perpetuity – meaning that for the usable lifespan of the building, 50 to 60 years, an agreement with the District would ensure the units remain rentals.
The community feedback also indicated that greenspace is important to residents, Harris noted. So the original public plaza has been turned into a park for community events, festivals and performances and an open “active and passive” greenspace with a play structure was introduced to the plan. It would be located off Cedar Hill Road and would connect to the rest of the development via a staircase.
The current proposal includes plans for four six-storey buildings to be set over retail spaces and two three-storey buildings fronting Shelbourne Street to create office space for medical professionals.
As before, the Home Depot would stay operational and a daycare would be included in the development along with a 7,000 square foot outdoor space for the children.
Everything south of the Home Depot would be redeveloped, including the existing Save On Foods space, Harris explained. Wesbild is, however, committed to providing a grocery store for the neighbourhood and he believes more “refreshed” retail would follow – coffee shops, banks, a liquor store and a pharmacy are expected.
The new application has gone to District staff for an initial review process. Wesbild will receive feedback to refine the application before it goes to council. Depending how long the review process takes, Harris expects the application could be before council by late spring or early summer of 2020.
Kelsie McLeod, spokesperson for the District, indicated staff are in the process of reviewing the revised plans. Affected community associations will be asked to comment on the proposal and as proposal requires rezoning, council will need to approve the plan.
If all goes according to plan, Harris said shovels could be in the ground by spring of 2021. Construction is expected to take three and half years to complete. He noted that the development would create 500 new jobs and $400-million in economic expansion along with property tax revenue for the District.
Several open houses will be held before the application goes to council.