American firm acquires University Heights Shopping Centre ahead of 590-unit rental and retail redevelopment effort
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Published March 25, 2022
South Carolina-based real-estate development and investment firm Greystar has acquired Saanich’s University Heights Shopping Centre ahead of its transformation into a modern mixed-use residential and retail destination.
Metro Vancouver-based Wesbild Holdings, the former owner of the McKenzie Avenue and Shelbourne Street mall and the firm behind a municipal approvals process envisioning a significant redevelopment effort, announced the sale to Greystar this morning.
“We have worked on this project for more than four years and we are excited to see it proceeding which is good news for this community and the future of University Heights,” said Wesbild President Kevin Layden. “We have worked closely with the District of Saanich on the need for more residential rental homes. With their support and subject to project approval, over 590 rental apartments will be constructed including 60 homes designated as affordable. We believe that Greystar will be an excellent developer of the site and we will do everything we can to ensure a smooth handoff.”
Built in the 1980s, University Heights’ transformation will include four rental residential and commercial buildings up to six-storeys tall, an 11,000 square foot daycare space, improvements to adjacent cycling infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations. The portion housing a Home Depot will remain operational throughout construction.
Greystar, with new offices in Vancouver and Victoria, says its acquisition of the shopping centre represents its first entry into the Canadian marketplace.
“We are thrilled to have this as our first major investment in Canada,” said John Wilbeck, the Vancouver- based Managing Director at Greystar. “This isn’t just a project for us – it is the development of a true, thriving community. Although Greystar is a global company, the redevelopment of University Heights will support local jobs and local companies, and we look forward to developing strong community relationships.”
The redevelopment plan is scheduled to undergo fourth reading and bylaw adoption at the District of Saanich later this month. Devon Properties, the premier property management and real estate services firm in Greater Victoria will be responsible for the day-to-day retail management of the shopping centre.
“We have always worked hard to ensure this important project will fulfill many of the priorities of Saanich residents,” said Layden. “I know Greystar shares our commitment to enhance the community with a new supply of residential rental homes, much needed daycare spaces and transit infrastructure. As construction is anticipated to begin shortly following fourth reading and bylaw adoption, the timing is right for this ownership transition.”
Throughout its construction phase, more than 300 construction-related jobs will be created, while the long-term employment at the new retail centre will yield 200 permanent positions, Greystar says.
“We are excited to bring our expertise to this transformative project that will address some of this region’s greatest needs,” said Matt Woodland, Managing Director at Greystar. “As a Victoria native and resident, I look forward to the growth we will bring to this vibrant community. From students to seniors, the new University Heights will be a sustainable community to live, work and play.”
A transaction price was not disclosed by the parties.
Plans to redevelop University Heights first emerged in 2017. Situated along Shelbourne Street and Cedar Hill Road at McKenzie Avenue, the 205,500 square foot complex is currently home to Home Depot and Save-On-Foods, and prior to its winding down of retail operations ahead of construction, the shopping centre featured a Landmark Cinemas movie theatre, a fitness centre and some 30 smaller retailers including popular dining destination J.J. Morgan Restaurant. C
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