Two sound stages could be built in the Langford Heights business park development, paving the way for film productions to come to the city.
Strand Corporation, the developer behind the large business park project around Westshore Motorsports Park, gave a presentation to the city’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee on March 28 that called for two sound stages to be built, and requested that a portion of the property be rezoned to add residential zoning to lots 1 to 4 – while leaving the rest zoned for a business park.
Strand, which is partnering with Bastion Development Corporation on the project, stated adding residential to the industrial project will help people live closer to where they work, making a “more complete community that is less reliant on automobile commuting.”
Langford council gave the rezoning first reading at its April 4 meeting.
Coun. Lillian Szpak said later in an interview the studios would be a great fit for the city, adding there are already a number of professionals here whose skills would allow them to work in well-paying film industry jobs.
“They don’t have to relocate to Vancouver where there are sound studios, they don’t have to leave their home in order to work. They could be working here in the film industry in Langford. So we wouldn’t have that sort of brain drain occurring,” she said.
The only other sound stage on the Island is in Parksville. Vancouver Island Film Studios there is completely booked until around March 2024.
Szpak added that sound studios in Langford could potentially pave the way for a production studio and see the city become another “Hollywood North” location down the line.
A proper film studio would be the missing piece of the puzzle that could attract the “big budget, blockbuster film,” according to Kathleen Gilbert, film commissioner for the Greater Victoria Film Commission. The sound stages would support existing local businesses and spur the creation of new ones to supply equipment and other services, such as post-production and prop houses. The next challenge is ensuring the Island has a skilled workforce for the industry.
“Already we are often unable to provide experienced crew to the shows that come here. Our big focus over the next year is to increase our crew base,” she said in an email.
Camosun College is a little further along in its bid to build a similar project near its Interurban campus in Saanich.
“There’s a huge demand for studio space since there aren’t really any other options on southern Vancouver Island,” Geoff Wilmshurst, vice-president of partnerships at Camosun, said in a previous interview with Black Press Media.
Work on that project is expected to begin within the next 18 months.
A public hearing for the Langford Heights proposal is set for May 6.
– with files by Megan Atkins-Baker
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