Royal Beach Q&A with Georgia Desjardins on the project's future homes, parks, a ferry to Victoria, and more
Ten on the 10th
Published May 10, 2023
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 May, 2023 segment features Georgia Desjardins, Director of Development for Seacliff Properties, a real-estate investment and development company based in Vancouver, BC. An August, 2020 Ten on the 10th segment with Georgia can be read here.
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.
I understand Seacliff and Reliance Properties are actually partners on Royal Beach. Can you give me a bit of background on how that partnership came to be, and what Seacliff/Reliance’s collective vision is for this spectacular waterfront community?
Yes, this was our company’s first joint venture. Royal Beach is a large scale and complex property totalling over 130 acres in size with 1.4 kilometres of shoreline, and zoning in place for 2,850 residential units along with a significant amount of commercial. The project represents the last significant waterfront lands in Colwood and our vision is for Royal Beach to become a new local, regional and national destination, defined by it’s spectacular seaside setting, modern and west coast-inspired architecture and an extensive and interconnected public realm. To best realize the potential, we wanted to work with a strong partner like Reliance Properties, who shares our vision and has a tremendous track record. To have 130+ acres of oceanfront land to transform into an entirely new community and destination is an incredibly unique opportunity and something we’re excited to bring to life over the next number of years.
I’ve seen some press in recent weeks regarding the approval of the Royal Beach parks plan. Can you tell me a bit more about what that plan entails, and the significance of it being approved a couple weeks ago?
On April 26th, we received approval from Colwood Council on the Royal Beach Parks Master Plan, after working closely with Council, staff and the community over the past 18+ months. The preparation and approval of the park plan, which details how the 46+ acres of oceanfront and ocean view parkland we’ll be dedicating back to the City over the course of the development will be designed and programmed, was a requirement from our rezoning (which was completed in 2021) that needed to be complete before development of the initial phases commenced. This approval represented a major milestone, and we’ve now moved forward in submitting our subdivision applications for the initial phases of development. More details on the park plan itself can be found here.
What are your initial applications for?
We’ve submitted two subdivision applications. One will be for a 12,000 square foot commercial building right at the main intersection of the project which will house our discovery centre through the build-out of the project. Our other application is for two six-storey multi-family buildings and some townhomes, totalling about 180 doors, which will be located along Metchosin Road at Commons Road. Development permits for both sites will be submitted in the next couple of months, with building permit applications to follow on both before the end of this year.
Over the next decade, how much housing inventory do you foresee being delivered at Royal Beach (separate from the Royal Bay development across the street)?
While a number of factors will ultimately influence this, we are targeting a buildout timeline of about 15 years.
How much retail do you foresee at Royal Beach? And what type of retail users are you looking for?
With projects of this size and scale, we need to remain flexible to be able to respond, adapt and evolve to changing market conditions. Ultimately, however, we are expecting a variety of smaller scale, more specialty and/or destination-type retailers to be attracted to Royal Beach, along with health, personal care and fitness providers, potentially a boutique hotel or other short-term accommodation spaces, and of course a variety of food and beverage retailers. Our vision and master plan is for a vibrant and animated main streetscape offering a mix of retailers and destination restaurants, starting at the main intersection to the site, and continuing down to and surrounding the new public plaza. Our initial 12,000 square foot commercial building I mentioned will set the stage for this vision, as it includes both a large main commercial space, along with an ancillary commercial retail unit for a café operator.
As the office market in Greater Victoria continues to adjust to a post-pandemic shift in office-based employment, will Royal Beach be including any sizable office components in their future phases to address demand for suburban workplaces? If so, can you speak to what you have planned?
The office market is going to be an interesting one to continue monitoring. Based on current conditions, we could certainly envision some smaller scale professional office spaces being viable, but I don’t think the scale of potential demand is there as of today to warrant the development of a purpose-built office building at Royal Beach. With that said, I think there’s still a lot of potential to hopefully attract some more users here in the future. At the most fundamental level, the West Shore is where a huge amount of the local workforce calls home. As employers continue to push toward the return-to-office – at least in some capacity, whether it be hybrid or full-time – I think certainly a part of that is going to be ensuring office space itself is in locations that are attractive and accessible to homes, reducing commute times.
Several years ago plans were aired for a commuter ferry operating between Royal Beach and downtown Victoria. Are those plans still on the table?
To be honest, I’m not totally clear on what, if any, plans are continuing to progress forward in this regard. Perhaps that says something on it’s own since we would certainly be a critical stakeholder in the project given the preliminary plans were for Royal Beach to be one of the connection points. We’d certainly still be open to being part of the discussion if and when any plans for that do move forward, but there’s a huge amount of further work and study that would be needed to truly understand the feasibility of such a plan, not to mention the coordination and efforts of a variety of different stakeholder groups.
And speaking of vessel facilities, will Royal Beach include a marina as part of its long-term build-out plans?
Short answer is no. I think that’s a concept that had been briefly floated (ha!) by a previous owner of the property, but not one that we’ve pursued. It would be an incredibly challenging site for a marina for a number of reasons and not something we see being viable.
I know Seacliff has a variety of other projects at varying stages across Vancouver Island. Can you provide a quick update on some of the other active projects Seacliff is working on?
Absolutely. On the active projects front, we have a number of things on the go in Langford at the moment including:
- the new Tesla sales and service centre, expected to open later this summer
- Trailside at the Lake (overlooking Langford Lake from the terminus of Goldstream Avenue); the first phase of 59 units expected to be complete by November of this year, with a sales program launching this summer. The second phase of 65 units is slated for completion next spring.
- construction of The Ridge at Vista Point is also now well underway, for a 6-storey multi-family building, totalling 93 condos and 10 townhomes. Completion for this project is slated for Fall, 2024.
Sandstone is another large scale project we’re working on, totalling over 720 acres at the south end of Nanaimo. We completed an OCP amendment last year, and are now moving forward through the rezoning process. In total, our application is for 2,200 residential units, comprised of about 1000 multi-family units, with the balance being single-family homes and townhomes, 175,000 square feet of commercial space, and over 3 million square feet of industrial space. We are targeting to be in front of council late this spring or early summer for a first reading.
What’s next for Seacliff on the island?
We have a lot of work in the pipeline within our existing island portfolio, but we’re always looking for new opportunities as well. We have a broad mandate so will look at a wide variety of different opportunities, including income-producing investments on either the commercial or residential fronts, to raw land development opportunities, and everything in between. We’re big believers in the future of Vancouver Island as a whole, and are looking forward to continuing to grow. C
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