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Landmark project in Esquimalt could deliver 272 homes and modern retail spaces to former Carlton Club site

A rendering of 900 Esquimalt Road, a mixed-use rental, condominium and retail proposal comprised of eight and 26-storey massings. The project is slated for the former location of the Carlton Club nightclub, and a three-storey residential/retail block on Esquimalt Road at Head Street.  GMC Projects

Landmark project in Esquimalt could deliver 272 homes and modern retail spaces to former Carlton Club site
Mike Kozakowski,
Esquimalt-based developer GMC Projects has submitted revised plans to the Township of Esquimalt for a landmark residential and retail redevelopment of two aging buildings the company acquired over the past three years along Esquimalt Road at Head Street, Citified has learned.
The properties include a former nightclub space above a retail strip at 900 Carlton Terrace, and 900 Esquimalt Road/600 Head Street, a three-storey mixed-use rental and retail block.
GMC’s vision for the parcels (see website) is for one building comprised of two components at heights of eight and 26 storeys that would deliver 176 condominiums in a highrise tower (with layouts in junior one-bedroom through three-bedroom homes) and 96 purpose-built rental apartments in a mid-rise (with homes ranging in size from junior one-bedroom to two-bedrooms). The building will include ground floor retail spaces and two levels of underground parking.
The mid-rise will also feature above-ground parking on level two that will be uniquely concealed with a custom mural, given the signature design and public art elements GMC has become known for across their projects.
Developer Jordan Milne, GMC’s president and CEO, says the updated plans represent a refinement to a development permit application seeking height and parking variances submitted to the municipality’s planning department earlier this year, and which could go before council as early as the first quarter of 2024.
“The project has continued to evolve and progress, and the recently submitted update responds to stakeholder and planning feedback by further detailing our design and building on the dramatic improvements we’ve proposed for the public realm,” Milne said. “These improvements will include investments into public amenities such as expanded boulevards for much wider sidewalks, cycling infrastructure, a public dog park on what is currently a parking lot, a new and expanded transit stop and other infrastructure benefits for the community.”
Dog park.
A rendering of a pubic dog park proposed on what is currently at surface parking lot at the rear of 900 Carlton Terrace, off Esquimalt Road.  GMC Projects
Slated for a busy commercial node between the township’s Victoria border to the east and Lampson Road to the west, GMC’s proposal will make a tangible contribution to the area’s urban renewal efforts already underway thanks to Esquimalt’s desire to beautify Esquimalt Road while replacing aging, end-of-life apartment buildings and strip malls.
“This area has been targeted for significant urban renewal investment for a long time,” said Milne, adding:
“The Township of Esquimalt has done a great job of enhancing Esquimalt Road in the ways it can as a municipality, such as through the introduction of medians with trees and landscaping in the centre of Esquimalt Road, thereby softening the ‘concrete jungle’ effect that urban areas often struggle to address. The township’s former revitalization tax bylaw that was replaced by a façade improvement program helped this transition get started, as Esquimalt laid the groundwork in its official community plan to encourage private property owners to join them in their efforts and to accomplish many other goals outlined in the OCP.”
Milne states that GMC’s inspiration for urban renewal was borne from Esquimalt’s forward-thinking community plan, and will present a dramatic improvement to the intersection’s present-day urban realm.
“The existing buildings are at or nearing the end of their reasonable lives and it shows,” Milne points out. “Our proposal provides for two public plazas, where buildings and surface parking currently exist, to anchor new vibrant commercial space, which is being programmed with existing tenants in mind, and connected to an expanded sidewalk and boulevard space. Then wrapping around the corner up Carlton Terrace, there will be a sidewalk where one currently does not exist leading to a publicly accessible dog park, which today is a surface parking lot next to garbage dumpsters. Then above, there are 272 proposed homes that aside from adding diverse housing options at a time when we need it most, will provide an expanded tax base for Esquimalt and new support for local businesses.”
Addressing the 26-storey height, the developer tells Citified careful consideration was given to a variety of building forms and footprints. Ultimately, it was decided that positioning the shorter building on the corner and the taller building further back from Head Street was the best way to build out the density and be sensitive to neighbouring properties.
“The massing of 26 stories was not arrived at overnight and was not our objective when we began. Before we start every project, we establish a series of values and objectives which guide all decision making. In this case, they are community, diverse housing, sustainability, affordability, revitalization, and adaptability. Given the cost of land and construction in today’s market, we knew that there was a minimum amount of density that would be required to achieve these objectives,” Milne said, continuing below:
"When we went through the massing process, it became clear that by taking density off the majority of the floor plate and stacking it on top of the remainder, we could improve urban form, open up more blue sky to those in the public realm, cast a thinner shadow that moves quicker throughout the day to enable more daylight to some of our immediate neighbours, and create substantial view-oriented indoor and outdoor amenities to improve livability and foster social connection. This shift away from a slab building form (think View Towers in downtown Victoria) to a mid-rise and tower form, was done directly to reduce shadow impacts on neighbours that include École Victor-Brodeur. In addition, we placed the taller form furthest from the school to further reduce shadowing impact.”
900 Carlton Terrace.
A rendering of 900 Carlton Terrace, looking east along the 900-block of Esquimalt Road towards Head Street.  GMC Projects
On the affordability front, Milne confirms his team is working with stakeholders to formulate a plan that could have a lasting impact on Esquimalt and the broader community. GMC has proposed a $1 million affordability contribution as one of the many project amenities. Details of the associated affordability program  will emerge at a later date after further stakeholder engagement and research.
“Above all else, as a socially-driven organization, we want to help achieve greater housing affordability in our region, and we recognize the complexity of the issue that impacts our neighbours in Esquimalt and across Greater Victoria,” Milne says. “With respect to our 900 Esquimalt proposal, we are in the process of exploring a variety of affordability options, which may include a unique approach to helping address the issue, and we look forward to further engaging with elected officials on that front, along with continuing our conversations with community stakeholders.”
In terms of assisting existing residential tenants at 600 Head Street with relocation for construction, GMC will provide options for individuals focused on financial compensation based on their length of tenancy, moving expenses derived from the City of Victoria’s robust Tenant Assistance Policy guidelines, and a right of first opportuntiy for tenants to return to the newly completed project. The company has met with all tenants that chose to engage with their team, to understand their individual needs and is awaiting the possible adoption of Esquimalt's Tenant Assistance Policy that would provide a specific framework. 
For commercial tenants, Milne noted that GMC met with operators to assess the needs of their businesses and has made considerations for each. 
“We are fully aware of the great connections the community feels towards our commercial tenants, and we are hopeful they may all return when the project completes. We have also appointed a commercial broker to assist with finding them temporary space, ideally nearby, and GMC will contribute towards their moving expenses to get there.”
Rooftop amenity area.
A rendering of the project's rooftop amenity area for residents.  GMC Projects
Based in Esquimalt with offices located within their Portage West rental development on Old Island Highway at Admirals Road, GMC Projects has a long history in the township, with all four principals of the company having made Esquimalt their first home when moving here starting between 2002 and 2014, and two of its principals still residing within Esquimalt.
“For GMC, working on a landmark project in our own community is both an honour and a responsibility. We live and or work here, and we are committed to helping make Esquimalt one of the most desirable communities to call home on Vancouver Island.'
To learn more about the 900 Esquimalt proposal, view GMC Projects’ website here. C

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