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Expanded Saanich Home Depot now part of 600 rental unit University Heights redevelopment

A rendering of Wesbild Holdings' redevelopment proposal of University Heights Shopping Centre in Saanich, looking northwest from the intersection of McKenzie Avenue (at left) at Shelboure Street. The project now includes an expanded Home Depot big-box store, and nearly 600-units of rental residences along with 165,000 square feet of commercial space.  Wesbild Holdings

Expanded Saanich Home Depot now part of 600 rental unit University Heights redevelopment
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Saanich’s Home Depot big-box store will grow larger if council approves the latest changes to a redevelopment proposal of a shopping mall on Shelbourne Street at McKenzie Avenue.
 
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Vancouver-based developer Wesbild Holdings, which initially proposed a new vision for University Heights Shopping Centre in the fall of 2017, has submitted updated documents to the District of Saanich calling for an expanded Home Depot by some 9,200 square feet, bringing the total store footprint to 85,000 square feet, and several amendments to what it hopes will become a mixed-use retail and residential project comprised of nearly 600 rental apartments and 165,000 square feet of commercial space.
 
Changes to Home Depot, if approved, would push the store’s northern frontage further north, extending the present-day seasonal area correspondingly northwards. The shift will displace just over 30 parking stalls, requiring an amendment to the mall’s parking variance.
 
The residential unit count among the site’s new buildings will move one suite down according to the latest plans, from 598 to 597, due to design reconfigurations in mixed-use buildings planned for the southern half of the University Heights property that extends between Cedar Hill Road and Shelbourne Street at McKenzie Avenue.
 
60-units among the 597 apartments will be made available as below-market rentals, priced at 10% below the market rate as assessed by an appraiser at the time of occupancy. The remaining homes will be required to remain as rental housing for a period of 60 years, or the life of the buildings (whichever is less).
 
The proponent has been asked to underground BC Hydro wires along Cedar Hill Road between McKenzie Avenue and Arrow Road, at a cost of approximately $1 million. This requirement, along with an electric vehicle charging discussion between the proponent and the District in early 2019, resulted in the project being placed on-hold that spring. A refined proposal, now before municipal officials, eventually emerged with a near-doubling of residential density and six-storey building heights.
 
Additional recommendations from staff are to allocate a minimum of 3,500 square feet of the new retail space to daycare use for a minimum of two years following occupancy, agree to over $1 million in total contributions to Saanich’s Affordable Housing Fund, a report on a crosswalk on Cedar Hill Road at Arrow Road, a memorial London Plane tree fund, a placard for the ‘Shelbourne Street of Unfinished Dreams’ initiative, and public art.
 
In terms of transportation initiatives, staff are recommending for the project to include a car-share vehicle along with a designated car-share parking stall, 20 electric vehicle charging stations (and electric vehicle charging conduits for 50% of resident-allocated underground parking stalls), bicycle repair stations for residential and visitor use, a transportation information bulletin for residents, and an ‘erasable’ public notice board for ride-share exchanges.
 
Proposed as a five-building development, Wesbild’s rezoning has outlined conceptual plans for heights of six-storeys throughout, with residences above commercial uses, and an underground parking component with total on-site vehicle stalls eclipsing 1,000 spaces.
 
Saanich council is expected to render its decision on whether to send the project to a public hearing this fall. C
 
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