Harris auto's move to Langford brings prospect of 1,500-unit Harris Green rental dev a step closer
Mike Kozakowski, Citified.ca
Published May 5, 2022
The relocation of downtown Victoria’s Harris automotive dealership from its long-time hub at Yates and Cook streets is now underway, Citified has learned, and the company’s transition to a new facility on the West Shore will bring one of the most ambitious redevelopment plays in Victoria’s history a step closer to fruition.
Starlight Developments, working towards a 1,500-unit rental and retail proposal for the Harris car lot and the entirety of the 900-blocks of Yates and View streets, is awaiting its public hearing date from the City of Victoria for approvals to build the single-largest infusion of rental housing – ever – in the downtown core.
Envisioned for the dealership site is the first phase of Starlight’s Harris Green Village, a two-tower project collectively comprised of over 500 studio, one, two and three-bedroom residences, including 80 affordable apartments. The ground floor commercial component totalling some 40,000 square feet will incorporate a new home for the Market on Yates, a downtown landmark currently situated along the 900-block of Yates Street at Quadra Street, and additional retailers.
“The Harris dealership’s move to Langford is an exciting milestone as we work towards securing a green light from the City of Victoria for Harris Green Village,” said Andrew Browne, Director of Development with Starlight Developments. “As vehicles begin to move off-site and the Harris offices close, the community will have a visual reminder of the many positive changes coming to east downtown as part of the Village.”
With towers in phase one rising to 20 and 21-storeys, Harris Green Village will be part of a burgeoning renewal of Harris Green’s border with the Fernwood and Fairfield neighbourhoods. Kitty-corner from the Starlight property on Cook Street, Chard Development is in the early stages of construction for Nest and Haven, a two-building condominium project spanning the 1100-blocks of Yates and Johnson streets. One block south of Starlight’s planned 20-storey tower, developers are busy with construction of Mod, a 15-storey condominium coming to the former Floyd’s Diner property.
A block to the north, meanwhile, Jawl Residential is planning an additional three residential towers on the former Mazda dealership lands as its first tower, also home to a new No. 1 Victoria Fire Department fire hall, nears completion.
“As the east side of the downtown core develops, we heard from local residents and stakeholders how important a modern green space would be to the local population, and as part of Harris Green Village, we will be constructing a public park mid-way between the 900-block of Yates Street through to View Street,” Browne said. “Improving the public realm with a dog run, trees and greenery, we feel, will be a turning point in the evolution of downtown Victoria.”
|A rendering of a public park mid-way between the 900-blocks of Yates and View streets at the centre of Harris Green Village's second phase. The park will include a dog run, an amenity in high demand in downtown Victoria, according to stakeholders. Starlight Developments|
Harris Green Village’s second and third phases along the 900-block of Yates Street include the remainder of the project’s residential density of roughly 1,000-units across three highrise towers (up to 32-storeys tall), plus approximately 80,000 square feet of space for retail uses, offices and a daycare facility, and a 10,000 square foot community flex space for local groups and organizations. Additionally, an accessible playground will be incorporated into the mid-block park.
As a city faced with significant demand for its supply of new housing, and a rental vacancy crunch perennially hovering at just above zero per-cent, a rapid supply of 1,500 residences in walking distance to retail amenities and employment is largely viewed as a boon to not only the city centre, but the entire region.
|A rendering of Harris Green Village's accessible playground for children. The unique design can accommodate wheelchairs and mobility devices. Starlight Developments|
Since 2016, the City of Victoria has added approximately 5,400-units of purpose-built rental and condominium housing, and the prospect of securing nearly a third of that supply across only two downtown blocks would represent stability for downtown businesses, and sound investment potential for new retailers, say business groups and advocates.
Speaking to Citified last summer, the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s Executive Director Jeff Bray said the last two years have illustrated the importance for the City of Victoria to insulate its economy from market turbulence. Bray noted purpose-built rental proposals like Starlight’s are “critical” to the city centre’s vitality.
"For downtown to be successful it has to be diverse and inclusive, and we realize we really need the density, and most importantly diverse density, to sustain the downtown core long-term," Bray said, and continued:
"We need to build lots of low-income housing, lots of purpose-built rentals, high-end condos, housing for workers. But really it’s the purpose-built rental housing that is so critical, as it brings in the young professionals, the downtown workers, and ensures our employers operate in a community that provides attainable housing for their employees, and through this diversity our businesses can be more resilient to withstand any future downturn in the economy.”
|An aerial rendering of Harris Green Village, depicting phase one (at bottom, centre) on Yates Street at Cook Street, and phases two and three further west along the 900-block of Yates Street between Quadra and Vancouver streets. Starlight Developments|
In terms of construction timelines, Browne says in an ideal scenario a public hearing scheduled for late spring could allow the company to mobilize construction efforts for an excavation start this summer or by early fall, provided approvals are granted. Phase one occupancy would be targeted for mid-2024.
Although Starlight’s most ambitious south Island development may be in downtown Victoria, the company is already working on the delivery of new housing at other sites in the Capital, including a recently approved collection of 24 rental townhomes along Michigan Street in James Bay. And work is about to begin on a 235-unit, two-building rental project just approved in Central Saanich near the intersection of Highway 17 and Mt. Newton Cross Road.
A construction start is also nearing for a 600-unit rental development in Langford near the Leigh Road Interchange as the first phase of a significant development across 38-acres.
Collectively, Starlight’s anticipated summer building activity will reach in excess of 850-units at its James Bay, Langford and Central Saanich sites. With hopes high Harris Green Village will get the nod from Victoria officials, the builder could be overseeing approximately 1,350-units of rental housing construction by year’s-end, at a time when the region needs it most.
To stay up-to-date on the Harris Green Village development, view the project’s website here. C
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