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Q&A with Denciti's David A. Fawley on real-estate development in Greater Victoria

Denciti Development's David A. Fawley chats with Ross Marshall of CBRE about real-estate development on the south Island, and political changes at the provincial level.  Citified.ca

Q&A with Denciti's David A. Fawley on real-estate development in Greater Victoria
Mike Kozakowski, Citified.ca
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.
 
Ten on the Tenth's November, 2022 segment features David A. Fawley, Co-Founder and Principal of Denciti Development Corp.
 
 
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.
 
Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd like to hear from you.
 
Tell us a bit about Denciti Development Corp. and your role there. 
Denciti Development Corporation is a British Columbia-based real-estate development company creating urban industrial, commercial and residential developments. 
 
I co-founded Denciti and have over three decades of experience in real-estate. My skills encompass project and development management, with a diverse portfolio in multiple asset classes. Together, our team has nearly a century of combined experience delivering planned developments across Western Canada and the United States. The Denciti team has delivered over $2 billion of real-estate.
 
Why have you made the Greater Victoria Region a focus of your development efforts?
People are naturally drawn to the Greater Victoria Region because of its stunning scenery, comfortable weather, and employment opportunities. The region continues to grow in popularity, with new residents moving here all the time and this summer saw the return of tourists. With a strong sense of community, we believe in this region and want to be a part of its growth. 
 
At present, Denciti has multiple projects underway in the region, offering a mixture of rental apartments and condominiums. These developments will showcase our expertise while also making a positive contribution to the community. Greater Victoria really does have it all and we are excited to be part of building the next generation of housing here.
 
As Victoria transitions into a medium-sized city, what are some of the housing challenges you believe local politicians will face in the coming years?
As municipalities mature and grow, there will be a challenge to balance the needs of their residents - those who would like to move into a community and those who have lived there for many years. With a housing crisis currently gripping the country, each community must build more homes, and the sooner the better.
 
To do so requires the cooperation of local government and the commitment by developers and builders to deliver more housing choices, be it workforce, condominiums or single-family-homes. There is also an acute need to provide affordable housing which will require all levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal) to band together in order to deliver housing to residents.
 
In terms of zoning and development timelines, where does Greater Victoria stack up relative to other regions Denciti develops in or has developed property in?
The Capital Region has the same challenges other areas of the province have - too many municipalities with varying land use and zoning regulations. This makes it difficult to develop new housing stock. A uniform set of regulatory standards would be beneficial as it removes a measure of uncertainty. A great example of cooperation is the Galloping Goose Regional Trail and the bike infrastructure that’s now in place – from my observation, these amenities are well utilised and are a clear benefit to the Capital Region.
 
Are there areas of the Capital Region that you believe excel in the delivery of new housing, compared to their peers?
Some cities embrace growth and others resist change, which is understandable as change can be scary if not managed well. We’ll need to see what the new municipal city councils decide over the next 4 years. What we worry about is regulatory fatigue setting in and the delivery of housing being slowed. That would exacerbate the housing crisis to an untenable situation.
 
We are hearing that the province plans to take steps to address housing shortages province-wide under Premier Eby. How could the policies outlined by the incoming premier impact larger scale developers, such as Denciti's?
Under Premier Eby's leadership, the province is taking steps to address housing shortages province-wide. This could impact developers, such as Denciti, in several ways.
 
One of the most significant changes is the introduction of more rapid approvals. As I mentioned earlier, we need housing now, not later, so this policy if implemented may result in faster build times. Additionally, the new one-stop provincial approval process is simplified, which could make it more certain for developers to get their projects off the ground.
 
The increased density in urban centres that are called for in the new plan may also result in more competition for developers. However, with the right team and experience, Denciti is well-positioned to compete in this new landscape.
 
The bottom line is that the province's new housing policies could have a major impact on Denciti and other developers. As always, adaptability and being able to anticipate change will be key to success in this ever-changing industry.
 
You’ve successfully achieved a large-scale rezoning in Victoria, on the downtown border. What advice would you have to other developers working towards approvals within the City of Victoria, specifically?
The property on Herald Street was already zoned, however, a complex development permit was necessary. What is notable about this project is the downtown location, scale, massing, and number of dwelling units for workforce housing that will soon be available to the citizens of Victoria. 
 
Developing this type of project required the engagement of City staff and advisory committees, as well as input from key stakeholders - all within a transparent forum and framework. This had to be balanced with the property’s significant context (border of historic Chinatown) and the Old Town Design Guidelines. Our design team did an excellent job in providing a sensitive and creative design that satisfied all these parameters.
 
In addition to your Victoria project, you also have a proposal currently before Esquimalt council for the old bingo property on Esquimalt Road. Can you tell us about that?
The old bingo hall will be replaced by approximately 120 workforce dwelling units, which aligns with the Township’s Official Community Plan. The property is well located near shopping, is very walkable within Esquimalt, and is a short distance from downtown Victoria (cycle, walk, transit). 
 
It is close to elementary and secondary schools, as well as parks, including Barnard Park with convenient water access. 
 
Are there any other projects Denciti is working on that we may not be aware of?
The other property we acquired in Esquimalt is located at Craigflower and Tillicum. While in the early design stages, it will be a mixed-use commercial/residential project providing condominiums for the community. 
 
How do you see Denciti evolving over the next few years?
Our company is continuing to grow, and we are focusing on multi-family residential buildings (work force rental and condo) as well as light industrial. The properties we are considering purchasing are becoming larger and more complex, which is in step with our company’s continued evolution and growth. C

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