Citified's Ten on the 10th is a monthly question-and-answer segment connecting our readers with the insight and knowledge of Victoria's top real-estate and business professionals.
January's Ten on the 10th features Edward Geric, President of Victoria-based real-estate development and construction firm Mike Geric Construction
Asking the questions is Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President of the Victoria offices of commercial real-estate brokerage CBRE
. As a leader in facilitating large-scale commercial real-estate transactions throughout the Capital Region – which include apartment complexes, industrial retail and office properties, and land/development opportunities – Ross and his team are at the forefront of market-leading real-estate transactions on Vancouver Island.
Tell us a little bit about Mike Geric Construction
Mike Geric Construction was founded more than 50 years ago as a custom home builder. We’re known for having taken our custom home approach to quality and finishing into multifamily development and for developing a significant number of homes and developments throughout Royal Oak, Broadmead, Gordon Head and the Mayfair District. In recent years, we’ve expanded our reach and the size of our developments as we’ve started to focus heavily on creating housing affordability and diversity and using technology and design to build sustainably.
I’ve been following your mass timber-designed condominium development, Tresah. Can you tell us more about it?
Tresah is a new urban condo development in the Mayfair District of Victoria. It includes two multifamily buildings located between Speed and Frances Avenues, across the street from Mayfair Shopping Centre, off Douglas Street. Tresah West
is a 12-storey fully Mass Timber mid-rise with 179 homes. Tresah East
is a six-storey woodframed building with 68 homes. We’re very excited about the neighbourhood and being first in the City of Victoria to build with mass timber.
We started marketing Tresah this summer and broke ground at the beginning of November
. It’s easily been one of the most exciting project starts we’ve ever had at Mike Geric Construction. Our company and our partner Golden Dynasty in collaboration with Aryze are really pleased with the response from the market and the support and interest we’ve had from the City of Victoria, our peers and the general public.
Have there been any major challenges in bringing one of the first mass timber-designed buildings to the Capital Region?
Doing something new always poses challenges, but that’s really how we operate at Mike Geric Construction. I like to keep things interesting and challenge our team to take on new projects that help us play a leadership role in the industry. Building a mass timber structure is a very different process than building with wood frame or concrete and steel. Much of the building is prefabricated off site so you need to plan things differently.
This project involves a lot of learning for everyone involved, even the municipality, because we’re first. We’ve put a multidisciplinary team together who all have the experience and skills we need, but it’s still a first for all of us so it’s a lot of extra work. One example of this is that we relied heavily on a code consultant to help through the municipal approval process, because a lot of the code for mass timber construction hasn't yet matured. We’ve been planning for a long time, much longer than it will actually take to build the mass timber building.
One of our biggest challenges has really been navigating how best to market a development during a pandemic. We have a beautiful mass timber sales centre, but unfortunately haven’t been able to use it for events and mass timber education to the extent that we planned to. Despite that, we have had a great response from the marketplace for pre-sales. There’s been significant interest, particularly from investors and first-time buyers who see an opportunity to invest in the Midtown neighbourhood at a starting price under $300,000 in the six-storey woodframe building. For the mass timber building, we have a wide-variety of buyers, many who are buying because of sustainability and location or specifically to be in a mass timber building. Recently, we’ve had buyers came to us who had previously hoped to live in the mass timber building in Esquimalt, but that project hasn’t moved forward yet so they are choosing Tresah.
Why did you choose mass timber for Tresah?
We chose mass timber for Tresah for a few reasons. We love building with wood and believe in the sustainability of wood construction. We were one of the first developers on the south island to build a six-storey woodframe building at our Travino development and we really wanted to take on mass timber next. We also saw an opportunity to support the BC forestry industry by sourcing wood from here.
Are there benefits of building with mass timber?
There are a lot of unique benefits to mass timber. It offers all the engineering benefits of traditional reinforced concrete construction, while at the same time reducing the carbon emissions on production. Its added capacity to store carbon for centuries rather than emit carbon as concrete and steel do, means every mass timber home that we sell at Tresah is effectively taking one car off the road for life. Mass Timber also has other benefits, it’s lightweight, which reduces building load, it has superior fire safety, seismic and soundproofing qualities and from a design and wellbeing standpoint, the exposed timbers and ceiling in a mass timber home look beautiful and create very positive surroundings.
Tresah is in the neighbourhood your team has called the Mayfair District or Midtown. What’s got you excited about developing in the Mayfair District?
This neighbourhood has actually been on our radar for more than a decade. We have a small condo and loft building across the street on Speed Avenue that we completed in 2015. It is one of the few established residential streets in the neighbourhood and is lined with historic 100-year-plus London Plane trees so the immediate area has great character.
Midtown or the Mayfair Town Centre area was identified by the city for significant future residential and commercial growth
and the Douglas Corridor planning process that’s been underway with Saanich and Victoria means there will be tremendous growth in the area. There’s already been a lot of investment, but we’re really just at the beginning of seeing this neighbourhood reimagined. Tresah is one of the first opportunities to purchase new residential real estate in a location that is growing and really convenient to the rest of Greater Victoria. It’s located on the region’s main bus route and future mass transit hub and it’s adjacent to the Galloping Goose trail so it’s also easily accessible with or without a vehicle.
What other projects do you have coming up?
We have a lot of projects in various stages of planning. Those coming up quickly include a couple of exciting projects that are going through rezoning processes with Saanich. Mateah is a proposal for 250 residences, light industrial and retail spaces within three buildings at 750-760 Enterprise Crescent and 4291 Glanford Avenue
. The design includes a huge amount of public space in the form of a central amenity area that will serve as a community gathering space. Doral Forest Park
is a proposed residential development at the northern gateway to the District of Saanich. It’s a two-building proposal that’s been designed to complement neighbouring residences and the surrounding forest and parkland of Elk Lake. We also have an approved waterfront condo development in Sidney
that will get underway this year.
Mike Geric Construction has several affordable housing programs. Can you tell me about them?
We started looking for ways to incorporate more diversity and affordability in our developments a number of years ago. Our first affordable program was at Travino in Royal Oak
, which is a condo community, but also includes 26 rentals in perpetuity and five affordable rental homes. Tresah will have 10 homes that are rental in perpetuity and affordable for low to moderate incomes for a minimum of 10 years. The Doral Forest Park proposal has 43 homes that will be sold at 15% below market value and remain as affordable housing in perpetuity in partnership with a housing provider. Mateah will have 38 rentals in perpetuity and 19 of those are proposed to be affordable subject to final agreement with the CRHC.
I know you own a junior hockey team and recently went through a high profile name change. Tell me about that decision.
We inherited the longstanding team name, The Saanich Braves, when we purchased the team and had been planning to change it for some time. We decided to wait until we celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the team, so in July we dropped the name and announced a public process to invite feedback. Our timing ended up coinciding with a lot of attention for teams that had names that had first nations images or references, so it made a lot of headlines when we were early out of the gates in making a change. It was a lot of work, but a very positive process for everyone involved and something that the whole team takes a lot of pride in. We’re now the Saanich Junior Predators.
What are you most excited about for the future of Mike Geric Construction?
I’m really excited to be focusing on sustainability and developing diverse neighbourhoods. We have a lot of exciting projects coming up with a growing team that I’m really proud of. We’ve also decided to go back to our roots and build some custom single family homes in Gordon Head, which is a lot of fun for us. These homes will have a contemporary/traditional design that starts with their interior livability. Each one will also have a separate suite to rent out as a mortgage helper or space for parents or other family members to live, supporting our focus on diversity in housing, which includes making space for multiple generations. C
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View CBRE Victoria's website here
- View Mike Geric Construction's website here
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