Building Up Esquimalt
-Esquimalt’s Latest Condo Project Tests Zoning Bylaws
An area in need of some tender loving care, the developers are promoting it with such pledges as: “…its rooftop garden is just one of the many elements that will revitalize the neighbourhood.” Esquimalt municipal planners have identified the area as a target for higher density.
Replacing a neglected land parcel, the project is seen as a key act in the gentrification (in the positive sense of the word) of Esquimalt. Casual comments among local residents indicate a negative perception of the site’s past. But, in a letter to Council dated last November, the developers wrote, “we feel strongly that investing in the area is a good thing and the first step in initiating positive change in the community. Analogous to cognitive behaviour therapy, changes in the external environment be it behaviour or the creation of an attractive building can stimulate positive growth in the internal milieu of both an individual and a community. ”
The wood-frame construction is keeping with the provincial government’s new building code that allows structures up to six storeys to now be built with wood. Previously, wood construction was limited to four storeys. Along with the rooftop garden, the project is billing itself as “green” with plans to enter into a partnership with the Victoria Car Share Co-Op program. The developers will buy the required co-op shares for each unit in the building as well as supply a fuel-efficient vehicle. The scheme is similar to that in use by Victoria’s Dockside Green community that gives members access to nineteen cars, trucks, and minivans stationed around Victoria.
Concerns expressed at the Hearing related to loss of trees, parking and traffic problems along Carlton Terrace, and that there is only one elevator which could cause problems in a medical emergency, but no objections to adding new heights to the area. In the end, Esquimalt Council approved the project and the rezoning of the neighbourhood for designated high-rise development. The current zoning is for mid-rise four storeys.
With current budget deliberations putting renewed pressures on Council to increase revenues through new development, Council will be more and more tempted to support increasingly bigger projects…..that is, IF those projects begin to come forward.