Having one’s career come full circle is interesting enough when it happens once, but when it happens again, it gives a person further opportunity to reflect on changes that happened in between.
A handful of years ago when I accepted a position as Oak Bay News editor for Black Press, it was a coming home of sorts, roughly 20 years after I began writing freelance sports pieces for the paper known then as the Oak Bay Star. Twenty years is like a lifetime in the newspaper industry, given the way technology has changed the way we report the news and cover our communities.
More recently I assumed the role of Victoria News editor, for a third time in a temporary or permanent, in the past 10 or so years. For certain, it’s a different Victoria, and to a lesser degree Esquimalt, than when I last sat in this chair.
Probably the most dramatic, if gradual change this born-and-raised Victorian has seen is the how the city’s skyline is undergoing a transformation. The old unofficial eight-storey maximum – adhered to in all but the most rare circumstances – is long gone, replaced by an expanded city philosophy of creating density upward, not outward.
It has also been interesting to watch the configuration trend for these 10-plus floor buildings.
Before the 2008 financial crisis, developers around the region were putting up condo projects, wanting to get in and get out with the money as quickly as possible. That changed when the single family home market took off again, people were buying on the West Shore and there was suddenly a glut of condos going for a song.
Gradually that housing stock got absorbed by first-time buyers anxious to get into the market. Developers were suddenly faced with a choice: build condos and assume the risks of having to sell them and the potential for a drop in the market, or take advantage of the ongoing transient accommodation crisis by building rentals, as a way to provide a steady, longer-term revenue stream.
Of the projects going up in Victoria, many are condominiums or some combination of office, commercial and ownership residential, while others are purely rentals. With the low single family home inventory in the region, many buyers are looking at new condominiums, especially those near downtown, as a good lifestyle option. The rentals, despite being priced higher than similar-sized suites in older buildings, appeal to people enticed by new construction and appliances and good locations.
This changing face of downtown can only help create more vibrancy, with an increasing number of residents using services and attracting interesting merchants.
As has been reported in this paper, the City of Victoria can take credit for creating an environment for appropriate development to thrive. It’s nice to see the municipality working with the development community to produce the kind of projects that make sense for the city and its residents.
Don Descoteau is editor of the Victoria News.