Wesbild hopes the fifth time is a charm for the University Heights Shopping Centre redevelopment plan.
The company owns the property bordered by Shelbourne Street, McKenzie Avenue and Cedar Hill Road, and has submitted finalized plans for the redevelopment. The plan includes five mixed-use buildings, more than 600 residential units and nearly 200,000 square feet of commercial space – including the existing Home Depot which would remain in operation.
After an initial application in 2017, the community surrounding the property voiced concerns about increased traffic in the area and affordable housing, said Bentley Harris, Wesbild’s director of development.
Public engagement took place over the next three years regarding various reworked proposals. Feedback led Wesbild to add a bigger daycare centre, a public park and reduced commercial space in the building planned for along Cedar Hill Road, Harris said. The height of the building planned for Cedar Hill Road was also reduced to six storeys and set back from the road to better align with the residential feel of the neighbourhood.
Improvements also include larger bus bays, increased parking and amenity space, strengthened cycling infrastructure and more affordable housing. In 2018, Wesbild proposed just over 360 residential units, 10 of them pegged as affordable. The final proposal includes 618 units – 62 affordable and 181 micro-homes – 315 square-foot residences – and the rest range from one- to three-bedroom units. An agreement between Wesbild and Saanich ensures all residential units will be rentals in perpetuity.
The increased number of residential units aligns with the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan to increase housing in the area, Harris explained. He added that with the increase in housing, more parking spaces were needed so an additional underground parking level has been added.
The proposed amenity area has also been nearly doubled to just over 3,900 square feet and include public green space, a dog park, a public art walk, private spaces for residents and a community plaza where food truck festivals and farmers markets could be held, Harris said.
While the existing Save-On-Foods location will be removed along with the other current retail shops, Wesbild plans to provide a neighbourhood grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants, banks, a gym and more.
Harris said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had an impact on the redevelopment project’s design phase, though Wesbild will continue to monitor the local construction market.
The company has been working with the local community and Saanich for a long time and Wesbild staff are “excited” to get to work and bring the redevelopment to life, Harris said.
If all goes according to plan, after a presentation to Saanich council this summer, the finalized proposal would be brought to a public hearing sometime in the fall. Then, if approved by council, Harris expects shovels could be in the ground by the spring of 2021. Construction would continue into 2024 and then shops would begin to open and residents would start moving in.