— Pamela Roth
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins has something to be excited about.
It’s been seven years in the making, but requests for proposals have finally been issued for the development of the Esquimalt Village Project (EVP), and shovels could be in the ground by the end of 2016.
“It feels awesome. It really has been a long process,” said Desjardins, adding the project will breath new life into the community.
“We’ve been told over and over this will be the catalyst for economic development in Esquimalt. There’s a lot of interest in Esquimalt right now so this will be just another way of bringing people in and emphasizing that this is a great place to live.”
Formerly the site of the public works yard and the original municipal hall, the property for the EVP is about 87,000 square feet in size and located adjacent to the municipal hall at 1229 Esquimalt Rd.. The vision calls for a lively and sustainable town centre that includes retail, residential and office space, along with a new education facility and library.
In the past, the development has included two multi-use component towers — one around 12 stories and another eight. Desjardins isn’t sure whether that’s something that will come forward again, but said council is willing to look at taller buildings if necessary.
Esquimalt hasn’t seen a lot of newer developments, but rather infill and townhouses instead. The township is well positioned to have more density, Desjardins added.
As for why the project has taken so long, Desjardins said there are a number of reasons. Throughout the last 15 to 20 years, numerous studies have been conducted about what to do with municipal properties, including the arena, Bullen Field, the public safety building and current town hall.
The process for the EVP began in 2005. Consultants were brought in with concept ideas, but council opted to focus on other properties instead. The focus shifted back in 2008 when there was a change in the economic climate, so ouncil started doing everything it could to get the property ready for a developer.
The site has since undergone a geotechnical analysis, an archaeological assessment and a survey to consolidate the site boundary. The township is also currently preparing a remediation plan for the site and expects to be able to provide a developer with a certificate of compliance from the Ministry of Environment.
In May, a request for expressions of interest was issued, which showed there was sufficient interest from the development community to proceed.
“This project has been chugging away in the background, but this council heard loud and clear we need this project to move forward,” said Desjardins, adding the EVP is a good news story for the community.
“The timing is right now. We’ve done a lot of background work, so I think that we’re better for the time that we’ve taken and the process we’ve taken.”
The deadline for submissions to the request for proposals is Dec. 10. At that time, council will review and consider all of the proposals and choose a partner that best responds to the needs of the community.
Once a selection is made, a comprehensive engagement process will be developed to give the public a variety of ways to provide input into shaping the final design.