— Kevin Underhill
Residents can get ready for a new-look, new-feel Victoria, as nearly 1,000 housing units are set to be added to the downtown landscape by 2018.
The explosion in downtown residential development is long overdue according to Kathy Hogan, executive director of the Urban Development Institute Capital Region.
“What we’re seeing here is what happened to Vancouver in the early 90s,” she said adding that every major city in North America has seen the same shift. “People want to move into downtown where they can walk everywhere.”
The housing developments, including a 53-unit apartment complex on the 500 block of Pandora Avenue and the 209-unit project spanning the 800 block between Yates and View streets, are going to transform the feeling of the downtown core.
Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, is thrilled to see all the action and can already feel the impact of development.
“The 500 block of Pandora is the most transformed block in downtown,” he said. “Things could not be more exciting right now.”
In an already red-hot Victoria real estate market, a need for purpose-built downtown homes is driving investors to back these construction projects. Developers and investors are seeing who is moving into downtown and building based on that research.
“We’re seeing a lot of younger people who aren’t looking to buy homes,” Hogan said. “And then there are older people whose kids have moved out and they are looking to downsize.”
The result: a boom in purpose-built rental homes.
“The developers know that young people can’t afford to buy so we’re seeing multi-family homes being built to fill that need,” Hogan said.
The densification of the downtown area can lead to positive impacts on the environment as well. There is less need for cars as everything can be within walking distance.
As the densification increases, the commercial and retail activity will likely pick up as well.
“Generally when the development industry is busy, that means the economy is doing well,” Hogan said, noting that the increased developments means a higher demands for trades as well.
Kelly, the ever-optimist, said the new downtown will transform what people think of Victoria and the Island.
“The downtown core defines the city. It is the embodiment of Victoria,” Kelly said. “The developments we are seeing are going to be a real plus for the entire region.”