The Townley Road affordable housing project once deemed on life-support, if not deceased, is experiencing a major revival.
The Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS) is set to present its four new options for the re-development of the Townley Lodge complex at 1780 Townley Road at an open house on Feb. 7 in the Begbie Building at Royal Jubilee Hospital from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
GVHS has operated the facility located south of Lansdowne middle school between Shelbourne and Richmond streets for half a century. However, an $18 million plan by the society to replace the 39 low-income seniors rental units at Townley Lodge with 51 new senior apartments and 16 family townhouses ran into opposition last October when neighbourhood residents raised concerns about the height and density of the proposal.
These concerns eventually convinced Saanich council to indefinitely postpone a public hearing for the proposal. The move prompted critique from a broad coalition of regional voices, including affordable housing advocates.
It also shocked the GVHS, which at one stage considered selling the complex and the land on which it stands, with proceeds going towards affordable housing project elsewhere.
Developments however took a turn in December when the GVHS announced that it would met with Camosun Community Association (CCA) board to discuss two alternatives to its initial re-development proposal.
This number grew to four when GVHS representatives met the CCA board on Jan. 12, a meeting both sides said went well.
“The reception we got from the (board) was welcoming and they were very complimentary about our efforts to reconsider and re-engage with them,” said Kaye Melliship, executive director of the GVHS.
CCA board president Sandie Menzies said GVHS’ presentation very much pleased the community association’s board.
“All of the preliminary plans that were presented indicated that they (GVHS) had really listened to the neighbourhood criticisms,” Menzies said.
While they vary, what unites them is the GVHS’ decision to reduce the complex’s maximum to three from four floors, because it “heard loud and clear that is a non-starter.”
Of the four presented options, the community association board favoured the second option, said Menzies. This option, she said, gives the entire complex a “community feel” by arranging the three proposed buildings around a central parking oval.
That option also creates a large green space at the back of the property by moving the buildings closer to the
nearby roads, Menzies said, adding that this option saves most of the trees currently standing on the property.
“From the CCA (perspective), GVHS has made a huge effort to accommodate the concerns of the neighbours,” Menzies said.
Neighbourhood residents however will have a chance to consider all options.
“At that time, we will get a feeling which plan the neighbourhood favours,” she added.
“We all agreed to take all four options to the open house, in hopes the community would also favour the one they (the board) picked,” said Melliship.
Melliship declined to answer which of the four options the GVHS favours and left open the possibility of further revisions. “Depending on what we hear from the community, we may still make refinements to the options and then discuss again with the (CCA) board,” she said.
This said, both sides sounded optimistic about the project moving forward. “At this point we feel this development is going to be a win-win situation for GVHS & the Townley neighbourhood,” said Menzies.
“We feel we have turned the corner on this and are full steam ahead.”