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Gorge Waterway townhome proposal seeks to fill 'missing middle' housing in Saanich

Abstract Development's proposal for 630 Gorge Road West is comprised of 26 family-oriented townhomes across five clusters of three-storey, three-bedroom residences.  Abstract Developments

Gorge Waterway townhome proposal seeks to fill 'missing middle' housing in Saanich
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Victoria-based Abstract Developments has unveiled a proposal for 26 family-oriented townhomes as part of a redevelopment along the Gorge Waterway in Saanich’s Gorge-Tillicum neighbourhood.
 
Envisioned for 630 Gorge Road West, roughly half-way between Tillicum and Admirals roads, the proposal would see five clusters of three-storey, three-bedroom townhomes in an architectural style reminiscent of the area’s early-to-mid-century built form.
 
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Abstract’s plans for the property are in response to a municipal push for modernizing aging housing stock while supplying attainable ownership opportunities for what has been termed the ‘missing middle’ by regional planners and elected officials.
 
This ‘missing middle,’ referring to housing sized between compact condominium residences and traditional single-family-dwellings, has grown in popularity throughout the region as real-estate valuations continue to push higher and more families refocus their efforts away from the Westshore towards the compact, walkable neighbourhoods in Victoria’s urban core.
 
“We are pleased to submit this proposal for much needed family housing in the Gorge-Tillicum neighbourhood,” said Abstract’s Director of Development, Adam Cooper. 
 
“630 Gorge Road will bring more housing diversification to the area by providing 26 new family-friendly townhomes designed to appeal to a wide range of housing needs in Saanich. The proposal supports the growth happening throughout the region and is situated in a location that offers close access to amenities, encourages walking, cycling, transit use and other forms of active transportation while mitigating the need for cars.”
 
Featuring entrances with walkways, gates and front patios that complement the existing character of the neighbourhood, Abstract’s design team has created a modern take on traditional styles that reflects a mid-century street-side appeal with a vibrant and welcoming charm the region’s established neighbourhoods are known for.
 
Although the architectural inspiration is mid-century, the technology and environmental stewardship in the proposal present state-of-the-art advancements to minimize the footprint of each residence.
 
“We’ve made every effort to design these homes with energy efficiency and the environment as guiding principles,” Cooper says. “From adaptation of the energy-efficient BC Step Code’s level 3, to cleaning stormwater on-site prior to it entering the municipal stormwater system, to a landscaping plan that assists with solar shading in the summer months when the canopies are full and passive solar gain when the leaves have fallen, we recognize the importance of leadership in sustainability that our communities and their future residents have come to expect.”
 
Should municipal approvals be granted, the 26 townhomes will replace a nearly 70-year-old low density rental complex nearing the end of its operating life. 
 
Managed by NVision Properties, Abstract’s sister company, residents of the Gorge View Apartments will receive compensation, moving assistance and relocation support services through a comprehensive relocation plan that will oversee the transition of tenants in a capacity that exceeds the requirements set forth by the British Columbia Residential Tenancy Act and, in the absence of a municipal set of guidelines within Saanich, parallel the stringent tenant relocation policies as set forth by the City of Victoria.
 
In addition to operating a number of existing rental buildings throughout the Capital, NVision recently completed a 95-unit rental building near Uptown Shopping Centre and is nearing the start of construction on a 76-unit rental project on Shelbourne Street at McKenzie Avenue as part of a regional effort to bring more purpose-built rental housing to Saanich.
 
Public consultation 
Abstract conducted a series of public engagement sessions over the summer and fall of 2019 to better understand the expectations of Saanich residents as they relate to housing. The events were held in public spaces that included Uptown Shopping Centre and the Saanich Fair. 
 
One of the principal outcomes was a desire for more townhomes as a form of gentle density in sought after neighbourhoods within the municipality, and as housing suited to the needs of growing families that may be priced out of the single-family-dwelling market while having outgrown typical condominium layouts.
 
“73% of respondents at our public information and feedback gatherings favoured transitioning more land in Saanich to multi-family uses, while half of respondents said that townhomes would be an ideal form of new housing for them,” Cooper said. “This feedback has been instrumental in helping our organization understand just how much demand there is for ‘missing middle’ housing, and how important the community feels it is in our housing market.”
 
As part of its Official Community Plan, the District of Saanich identifies Abstract's redevelopment site as having a ‘neighbourhood’ land use designation with building heights of up to four-storeys in height for townhouses, low-rise residential and mixed-use building types. The Gorge-Tillicum Local Area Plan (LAP) identifies the 630 Gorge Road West property as multi-family, and provides direction for the neighbourhood to grow into a mix of housing types that include more townhomes.
 
With Abstract’s proposal now before civic planners, the approvals process is expected to extend into mid-to-late 2021. Pending council’s decision, construction could get underway by early 2022. C

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