Plans for almost 700 new student housing units will likely get a boost from Saanich council tonight.
A staff report recommends councillors grant the University of Victoria a development variance permit for parking and building height to construct one 11-storey building and one eight-storey building for student housing on campus.
The two buildings would replace three aging buildings for a net gain of 621 new student beds. e two new proposed buildings include 783 student housing beds (621 net new).
“The proposed development would provide much needed on campus student housing, and help to free up some off campus rental housing for other people wishing to secure rental housing in Saanich or the [region],” said Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning.
The buildings also include a 600-seat dining hall serving students living on campus and the broader campus community, as well as meeting rooms and two new 225-seat classrooms .
Premier John Horgan and Minister of Advanced Education, Melanie Mark joined students in November 2018 to announce the $200 million project.
This said, the university has been building towards the new housing for years prior to the official announcement, with public consultations dating back to at least October 2017. Four rounds of public consultation led to over 1,800 interactions with the on-campus and neighbouring communities according to a staff report.
Overall, the project enjoys broad support from staff and the municipality’s design advisory panel. The Gordon Head Residents Association (GHRA) also no objections to the development.
Christine Poirier-Skelton, GHRA president, said the association’s board supports the application, noting that university representatives have “thoroughly and promptly” addressed various questions and concerns.
“The new on-campus residences will help alleviate the student housing shortage, which is partially responsible for many of the traffic, parking, noise, and ‘nuisance property’ issues in Gordon Head,” she said.
Eric Dahli, chair of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, said the association has no objections, but raised concerns about the impact of the project on Sinclair Road.
“We understand the need for the University to upgrade and expand on-site residence facilities for a growing student population,” he said. But Dahli predicted that sped-up plans are going to “exacerbate” the “problematic interface” between the university and nearby Cadboro Bay Village by way of the “substandard, overburdened, and unsafe Sindair Hill.”
Adding hundreds of more residents to the area is a “Clarion call” for the municipality to “start and expeditiously complete” the long promised upgrades incorporating safe bike lanes and pedestrian walkways to Sinclair Road, he said.
Current plans call for construction of the eight-storey building to start in 2020 and finish in 2022. Construction of the 11-storey building would also start in 2020 and finish in 2023.
Students would move into the eight-storey building in the fall of 2022, into the 11-storey building in the winter of 2023.