Skip to content

Esquimalt council hears public opinion on proposed 26-storey high-rise

GMC Projects are asking for a development and development variance permit
An architectural rendering of a proposed 26-storey residential building on Esquimalt Road, which would be the tallest building in Greater Victoria. (GMC Projects)

Esquimalt council members heard opinions from the public on an upcoming residential building that is expected to be higher than the current tallest building in Greater Victoria, Hudson Place One.

At a township meeting on Monday, March 4, councillors listened to public input and deliberated on an application for a development permit and a development variance permit for a residential building expected to be 26 storeys tall.

The mixed-use development at 900 Esquimalt Road and 900 Carlton Terrace, which is being built by GMC Projects, would offer 96 rental units, 176 condos, 231 parking stalls, outdoor amenities and communal gathering spaces.

The public period saw dozens of Esquimalt residents, students, local business owners and tenants of other GMC properties take to the podium.

“There are many reasons why we support this development but the biggest one is the community is growing and we need to have the housing and infrastructure in support of that growth,” said Gajendra Singh, a representative of Spice Valley Indian Cuisine, which is located near the property. “This development would completely revitalize this area and bring new life to this neighbourhood.”

Rozlynne Mitchell, chair of the West Bay Residents Association, said she and the association don’t agree with the development, as it exceeds the 2018 OCP policy allowing a floor area ratio of 3.0 for commercial mixed-use developments, and it exceeds the 12-storey limit for residential developments.

“We need affordable housing, this massive proposal should offer some. This building will tower over and overwhelm its neighbours and the street and it demonstrates a fundamental disregard for its neighbours,” she said.

The executive director of Esquimalt Nation, Katie Hooper, said she agrees with the development, as she and the nation have been working with GMC, which was founded and continues to reside in Esquimalt, since 2002, and it has “actively sought to incorporate the nation into the developments fabric.”

“They’ve engaged in active conversations with both former and newly elected members of our council ensuring continuity and respect for governance. In my tenure, spanning more than a decade, I’ve engaged in numerous discussions with various entities but the dialogues with GMC have been uniquely positive and constructive,” said Hooper.

Jordan Milne, president of GMC Projects, said GMC prides itself on their ability to create “micro-communities” within its residential properties through the abundance of shared amenities and community spaces, which he explained is important as social isolation continues to be a major contributor to the mental health crisis.

“Esquimalt is a jewel. Esquimalt deserves to be seen as a jewel within this region and this is an opportunity to deliver a landmark project that people in the community today can be proud of, but as well it will serve future generations,” he said.

Coun. Duncan Cavans motioned to delay the consideration of the application and ask staff to come back with a plan to start a two to three-month process to review the OCP and zoning for commercial mixed-use designation through a charette procedure, as it doesn’t have a written height limit like residential zoning.

“I am very concerned about the fairness of changing the direction at this point,” said Mayor Barbara Desjardins. “There’s significant support, there’s been significant consultation, I don’t think I’ve seen a project with that much consultation having happened. What more is our consultation going to add on to that?”

Cavans’ motion was defeated, with Desjardins, Coun. Darlene Rotchford, Coun. Ken Armour and Coun. Andrea Boardman voting against.

Coun. Tim Morrison proposed a motion to get more amenity comparisons from similar projects around B.C. and to postpone the decision until the March 18 council meeting.

“The design review committee was able to pass in a split vote, 4-2 but with a pretty major condition on form and character that if we’re going to have a 26-storey building in Esquimalt it has to be something beyond iconic,” said Morrison. “I think there’s good reasons why people support it because it is a pretty iconic application it’s just that the tower itself isn’t all that iconic.”

That motion passed unanimously, and council will continue the conversation on Monday, March 18.

Read More: Victoria affordable housing units bought by wealthy investors, lawsuits allege

Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
Read more