This rendering shows plans by Wesbild Holdings Ltd. to redevelop University Heights. Specifically, it shows the corner of McKenzie Avenue and Shelbourne Street. Submitted.

Plans for University Heights redevelopment could go to Saanich council by end of year

Saanich politicians chosen in October could consider the proposed redevelopment of University Heights by the end of 2018.

Tamra Groh, director of design and construction at Wesbild Holdings Ltd., said Thursday that the company plans to appear before council with its redevelopment plans after the Oct. 20 municipal election in late 2018 or early 2019.

Related Story: Proposed redesign would 350 add rental units

Construction could start in late 2019 pending approval of permits and complete in late 2022, early 2023, she added.

She offered this tentative time line before the company held its second open public house Thursday evening. The company held its first open public house in late July and plans to hold a third and final open public house on Nov. 1. The company has already held various meetings with local community leaders as represented by the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, Mount Tolmie Community Association, and Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association.

The proposed redevelopment of the shopping centre would mark a major change in the area, now subject to the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan, an ambitious framework designed to increase residential and commercial density, while reducing private automobile use.

Wesbild Holdings — which purchased the shopping centre in 2015 for a reported figure of $52 million — cites this plan throughout its literature and the formal co-ordinates of the project breathe the plan’s spirit.

The proposal calls for the construction of 367 residential units and new commercial space totaling 192,000 square feet. Renderings show tiered residential units on top of a main commercial building. It is proposed that it would house an expanded version of the Save-On-Foods location that currently operates on site. (The retailer would leave the site, then return following the completion of the project).

Home Depot — the other major University Heights tenant — would remain open during construction. Plans also show three other new mixed-use buildings.

Thursday’s presentation differed from the first open public house in several ways. It not only included more information about the visual impact and massing of the project, but also revised the number of affordable housing units to 10 from 15.

University Heights started operations in 1988 and B.C. Assessment currently assesses its value at $53 million.

Tenants include RBC, CIBC, Thrifty Foods Liquor, Save-On-Foods, Landmark Cinemas, V.I. Fitness, restaurants and independent shops.

The re-developed site would feature a similar portfolio of businesses, but also community space. The project also promises measures that improve the local infrastructure for transit users, cyclists, and pedestrians, including a dedicated bus lane on McKenzie Avenue with a pull-in stop for three buses.

Wesbild also promises a car-share program for residents and measures to mitigate traffic impacts. The company anticipates that the number of vehicles entering the site would increase by less than five per cent.

Groh said feedback so far from both the public and district staff has been positive.

“We are just really excited about this project,” she said.


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