Wesbild says it remains committed to the redevelopment of University Heights, but the public cannot expect to see the revised plans until the fall. (Black Press File).

Wesbild says it remains committed to the redevelopment of University Heights, but the public cannot expect to see the revised plans until the fall. (Black Press File).

Company commits to redeveloping Saanich’s University Heights

Wesbuild plans to submit revised proposal for shopping complex in the fall

The proposed redevelopment of University Heights will go ahead with a revised plan, but the public will likely have to wait months to see the plan itself.

Wesbild, the property’s owner, has publicly announced that it will redevelop the hub.

“After significant public consultation, and working closely with the District of Saanich, we remain committed to University Heights and are currently working to refine our revitalization plan,” the company said in a statement on the project site. “Please register to receive updates as the project evolves and continues to take shape.”

But if the company has signalled its commitment to the project, its eventual shape will not emerge for some time.

Jen Derbyshire, Wesbild’s director of marketing and community relations, said Tuesday that the company plans to submit its revised proposal in the fall followed by what she called “extensive” community consultations.

The broad strokes of the project remain, mixing commercial usage with rental residential, said Derbyshire. “But it will be different.”

To emphasize this point, Wesbild has scrubbed its project website of previous renderings in suggesting that its new proposal will perhaps be less ambitious. The site instead features more generic imaginary. Previous renderings showed an elegant, even upscale, complex, that would dominate the area if completed.

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The proposed re-development of the shopping complex is perhaps the signature element of broader plans to densify the corridor along Shelbourne Street. Questions about the status of the project emerged in April when public documents described the application as being “on hold” without giving any additional information about the rationale.

When later asked about the likelihood of the project going forward, Steve Forrest, Wesbild’s senior vice-president, said he would give it odds of 60-40 in favour of going ahead, adding that he would have given the project the same odds before the current review.

Forrest said at the time his company is currently “tweaking the development to make it financially viable” after receiving input from the municipality and the public at large. Proposed changes include shrinking the commercial share of the project, lowering its maximum height to six storeys from eight, and making all units available for rental.

Derbyshire said that not much has changed since then.

Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said the municipality has not received an updated application from the developer. “Planning will be happy to review once they receive it,” she said.


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wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com