It might be the biggest redevelopment of its type, not only in the province but in the country.
The newly orchestrated Nigel Valley Project in Saanich is a combination of the five existing social service and housing providers situated between Vernon Avenue, Saanich Road and Darwin Avenue.
B.C. Housing has made the first step with a rezoning application to Saanich and is leading the project, which could reach $100 million in costs. It will see a 15-year-replacement plan for Broadmead Care’s Nigel House, Island Community Mental Health’s Darwin apartments and Newbridge apartments, the Garth Homer Building, Greater Victoria Housing Society’s Nigel Square and B.C. Housing’s wheelchair-accessible Battin Fielding townhomes and apartments.
There are currently 63 residents in the Island Community Mental Health buildings, 18 in affordable GVHS units, 26 in Nigel House, and 79 in B.C. Housing units. Garth Homer supports 200 day clients. Those numbers could increase as high as 124 for ICMH, 67 for GVHS, up to 75 in Nigel House, 168 in B.C. Housing units, and 75 new residential care spots for Broadmead, though all numbers are preliminary.
“Some of us began lobbying for this years ago and eventually we attracted the interest of B.C. Housing, who agreed to put money into the master plan for the project,” said Garth Homer Society executive director Mitchell Temkin. “There’s the expression it takes a village to raise a child, and we’re saying, it takes a neighbourhood to make a life. It’s our real ambition to make a place for people who don’t have opportunities, people with mental health or physical disabilities, or limited funding, a place for them to make a life, and the key thing to impress here is it’s not just a bunch of real estate.”
In total, the development proposes 14 new buildings. Twelve are between four and six storeys, which includes two potential market housing rental buildings, as well as an eight- to 16-storey market rental building. B.C. Housing has a preliminary plan for an eight-storey non-market residential building. All these will sit on top of additional fill, as the valley was already filled in 40 years ago to hide a creek that feeds Swan Lake.
Garth Homer’s would be a massive new centre to replace its aging facility built in 1975. The society’s adult programs have expanded and it now runs satellite programs while also supporting four residents in the Nigel Valley Battin Field housing. Office space is also at a premium in Garth Homer, to put it mildly. But the biggest move for Garth Homer is to add supported residential housing for its clients, who live with mental disabilities.
“We’ve asked for 125,000 square feet to be approved in zoning, and we would put about 75,000 of that into residential over time. How many units, we don’t quite know yet,” Temkin said.
Garth Homer will reproduce its auditorium in the new centre as a community amenity and replicate its day service spaces, while adding other much-needed community amenities.
While Garth Homer is at the beginning of its consultation stages for architecture and development, Broadmead is a little further along.
Nigel House currently houses 26 individuals with significant physical disabilities and the building is in dire need of replacement, said David Cheperdak, CEO of Broadmead Care.
A 41-bed Nigel House replacement is the first building to be constructed in the Nigel Valley Project. It’s estimated to cost at least $17 million.
“We’re exploring the possibility of adding assisted living in addition to Nigel House, which would add to the cost,” Cheperdak said. “B.C. Housing is doing an amazing job bringing this together with a common vision to do something so amazing and we’re very proud to be one of the first developments to go up.”
There’s no price tag for Broadmead Care’s new Nigel facility but it will put in $3 million of its own money and will rely on funding from Island Health for operations and to help pay for a mortgage, Cheperdak said. B.C. Housing is also helping with funding. Broadmead is also starting a fundraising campaign.
One of the key strategies for the Nigel Valley Neighbourhood Plan, which is viewable in detail on the B.C. Housing website, is the detailed phasing plan.
Nigel House will be built on a new, neighbouring envelope and the current residents can stay in their home during construction.
Program manager Karen Brimacombe is thrilled to know Nigel House will be replaced.
“I’ve been here three years, it really is good to know we can soon offer a better facility and more complete services to our clients,” she said.
A few years ago Broadmead Care entered into agreements and bought three Darwin Avenue homes adjacent to Nigel House. Those homes are currently being rented, and will be razed to make room for the Nigel House as well as a new park at the centre of the valley.
Walking, cycling and alternate transit are part of the detailed plan. With a greater number of residents seeking access to Saanich Centre and Uptown, the Nigel Valley Steering Committee, Saanich, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and B.C. Housing have talked about introducing a controlled crosswalk across Vernon Avenue. It would go about halfway between Saanich Road and Ravine Way, where jaywalking is already a concern.
The current footprint of the Nigel Valley neighbourhood, which is slated for an overhaul that will likely cost over $100 million. No. 1 is Broadmead Care’s Nigel House, No. 2 is Island Community Mental Health’s Newbridge and Darwin apartments, No. 3 is the Greater Victoria Housing Society’s Nigel Square townhomes, No. 4 is B.C. Housing’s Battin Field townhouses and apartments, and No. 5 is the Garth Homer Society day centre.