Ten on the 10th: Harris Green redevelopment Q&A with Mark Chemij of Starlight Investments
Ten on the 10th
Published July 10, 2019
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.
July's Ten on the 10th features Mark Chemij, Senior Manager, Development for Toronto-based Starlight Investments. Starlight recently purchased nearly two city blocks in Victoria's Harris Green neighbourhood and the organization is in the early stages of a community consultation process to redevelop the parcels. Chemij is leading the project and shares his insights on Starlight Investments' vision for this high profile area of downtown Victoria.
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 love to hear from you.
Some people might not be familiar with Starlight Investments, can you tell me about the company?
Starlight Investments (“Starlight”) is a privately held real estate investment and asset management company driven by an experienced team of over 200 professionals with headquarters in Toronto. The company currently manages more than $11.0 billion of real estate, with a high-quality portfolio of approximately 36,000 multi-residential (rental apartment) units across Canada and the United States and over 6.2 million square feet of commercial properties across Canada.
In the City of Victoria, Starlight Investments currently owns and manages ten multi-residential buildings comprising over 800 suites along with approximately 250,000 square feet of commercial space. To ensure exceptional tenant service knowledge of local trends and matters, Starlight utilizes best-in-class local property managers and other experts, selected based on their local market capabilities and experience.
Why is Starlight interested in the City of Victoria?
The City of Victoria is experiencing above average population growth and compelling demographic trends conducive for a robust rental housing market (for example, over 60% of Victoria’s residents are renters). This, combined with a lack of new rental offerings, is resulting in strong demand for new purpose-built rentals as exhibited by supportive market trends of a very low vacancy rate of 1.2% and a strong rental rate growth of 7.5% in 2018.
Due to these factors, Starlight believes there is an excellent opportunity to develop purpose-built rentals in the City of Victoria.
When did Starlight first become interested in Victoria?
Starlight has been an active part of the Victoria community since 2012, with an initial purchase of multi-residential properties in the James Bay area. Today, Starlight is one the largest owners of rental housing in Victoria.
Give our readers a sense of the Harris Green Village project.
The Harris Green Village project is comprised of two sites located between Quadra Street and Cook Street within the Harris Green neighbourhood. Combined, the two sites total approximately five acres.
The larger site comprised of the 900-block of Yates Street contains 15 residential rental units and 27 commercial tenants, some of which include Market on Yates, London Drugs, Front Runners and Bin 4 Burger Lounge. The second site includes the eastern half of the 1000-block Yates which contains the Harris Dodge car dealership.
What makes this an important part of the city?
Harris Green is a gateway to downtown Victoria and a place that many members of the community congregate. With the influx of recent developments, Harris Green has become a central location in Victoria’s expanded downtown where community members both live and work.
With the help of the community, we believe this project will become a vibrant urban space and a place that Victorians are proud of.
What are Starlight’s intentions for the Harris Green Village development?
Starlight has identified the Harris Green Village as a fantastic opportunity to support a master planned mixed-use community.
The final development final will be informed by the engagement process Starlight is currently undertaking, although we expect rental and commercial uses to be a noteworthy component of the project.
What is Starlight’s approach to community engagement?
As with all Starlight’s redevelopment projects, we look to involve and inform community members and stakeholders throughout a project’s entirety.
Our approach is to redevelop Harris Green Village with the input of the community to create a vibrant, functional space for everyone. We recognize this is an important area of the city and we encourage ongoing input from the community to help make this project a success.
Has Starlight done other developments such as this one?
Starlight has more than 40 development projects comprising approximately 12 million square feet at various stages in the development process. These projects include residential, commercial, and mixed-use opportunities.
Our dedicated team has significant development and construction experience across all asset classes through experience working with Starlight as well as some of Canada’s leading development and asset management companies on some of Canada’s most notable projects.
Who are your external development team members?
Starlight is in the process of building our consultant team. To date, we have chosen IBI Group, a world-class architect as the design lead and Deane Strongitharm of City Spaces as our local planning consultant. Both have been selected due to their extensive local planning knowledge and development experience.
What are your next steps?
Starlight will continue our engagement and dialogue with our community and stakeholders, which will also include consultation with the Downtown Community Association Land Use Committee. Once we have enough information, we will be preparing a rezoning application that will be submitted to the City for review. C
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