Townley Lodge down to a pair of options for redevelopment

About two dozen attend open house by the Greater Victoria Housing Society

These are the two remaining options for the redevelopment of Townley Lodge.

These are the two remaining options for the redevelopment of Townley Lodge.

An open house cut the options for the planned redevelopment of an affordable housing project in half – which is still one too many.

The Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS) organized the open house last week to present residents who live around Townley Lodge with four options for its proposed redevelopment.

About 25 residents attended the open house and their input expressed preference for two options. But here lies the hitch.

“The challenge for us is that each preferred [option] is quite different,” said Kaye Melliship, GVHS executive director. “One option includes 11 family townhouses and a 54-unit seniors apartment building; the other option is an 85-unit apartment building.”

Of the people who attended, 52 per cent favoured the townhouse option, the remainder the apartment building option, she said.

Despite the divided feedback received during the open house, Melliship described it as very valuable.

“We need to know what the community will support and what their issues are, as we may be able to address them and still have a viable project,” she said. “We also need to build goodwill with the community by showing them we are keeping an open mind and willing to hear and try to accommodate their concerns and preferences.”

The feedback was valuable insofar that it eliminated two options, said Melliship.

“We agree that the two [options] that did not get significant support were not the best options,” she said. “

“We are pleased to see the community agrees.  Of the two that are left, we feel the option that has townhouses is best, from a design, community need and tenant perspective. However, we will continue to include the apartment building as an option for consideration.”

Melliship said the society might seek out additional community feedback.

“It is highly likely we will hold another open house in early March to focus in on either one or both of the two preferred options,” she said.

The open house last week marked the latest signpost along what has been a difficult, sometimes tumultuous road for the project on hold since last October when council indefinitely postponed a public hearing for the project.

It ostensibly began in July 2016, when the GVHS announced a major redevelopment of Townley Lodge.

Built in 1967, the two-storey structure at 1780 Townley Rd. consists of 39 low-income seniors rental units.

The GVHS was planning to replace them with 51 new senior apartments and 16 family townhouses spread across three buildings, including a four-storey apartment. Residents’ concerns about its height, however, convinced council in late October to indefinitely postpone a public hearing for the project.

That move generated accusations from social service and business circles alike that the district was undermining the cause of affordable housing, a charge that Saanich councillors rejected by noting that GVHS had failed to secure sufficient social licence for the project to move ahead.

As for the GVHS, it spent the remaining months of 2016 pondering its options, which at one stage included selling the property and investing financial returns in affordable housing projects elsewhere.

In January though, the GVHS presented four new options for the project, all of which eliminated the four-storey apartment of the previous proposal.

While the open house signalled some progress, it also indicated plenty of work remains ahead.

So what is the likelihood of the project going forward at this stage? Melliship remains optimistic.

“I think the broad-based concern about the lack of affordable housing is appreciated by the community and that we will be able to come up with a proposal that most of the community and council will be able to support,” she said. “We will never make everyone happy, but we will continue to listen and present options that are the best compromise possible.”

Note: A previous version of this story identified Townley Lodge as a single-storey building.

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