Jordan Milne heads up GMC Projects, the company that recently received tentative approval from Esquimalt council to renovate the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites to a 96-unit, mostly rental complex. Courtesy GMC Projects

Esquimalt paves way for addition to rental housing stock

Econolodge Motel and Suites to be converted, but tourist accommodation ability retained

The Township of Esquimalt has moved forward a proposal by GMC Projects to breathe new life into the 122-room Econolodge Inn and Suites at 101 Island Hwy., allowing for the conversion of the former hotel to a 96-unit rental complex.

Named Portage West, the project will convert four two-storey block units at the site, as well as five individual cabin structures on the edge of the Gorge Waterway, into rental accommodations. They’ll range from studio to two-bedroom apartments, while one of the cabins is slated to become a four-bedroom, roughly 1,500-square-foot apartment.

“One of the things I love about this project is the collaborative living approach that lies at the heart of the concept,” said Coun. Susan Low, adding the sharing of some common spaces tends to create a stronger sense of community.

She also appreciates the plan for a small on-site café that will be open to the public as well as residents. “I love the idea of the cafe upgrade and the way it will move this development into being a part of the community. It’s a place where residents and neighbours can meet and interact. That’s how communities are made.”

It’s a sentiment shared by GMC president Jordan Milne.

“This is a great site. The apartments are going to be pet friendly, have the waterfront pool, and we’re putting in a community kitchen/barbecue facility. It will be a fantastic place to meet the neighbours, relax and know that you’re part of the community,” he said.

Milne observed that Victoria, with a rental rate of less than 0.5 per cent, is in dire need of rental accommodation and that this project is designed to, at least in part, address that need.

“We’re really excited to be bringing Portage West onto the market and will be getting right to work on the first phase of the project, which will create the first 14 apartments at the site by the end of October 2017,” he said. The remaining four phases will bring additional units on line and the project is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2018.

Although the zoning for the site will theoretically allow for some units to be used for tourist accommodation of less than 30 days, vacation rentals may not be mixed in the same block as the apartments, explained Low. As well, the vacation rental use would only be allowed if the vacancy rate for apartments increased substantially, a possibility not envisioned in the foreseeable future by either Milne or Low.

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