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Vic West's 2,200-unit Roundhouse project switches gears with fewer rentals, more condos

An aerial rendering of the latest vision for Vic West's Roundhouse lands. Developer Focus Equities has shifted gears with its latest application to the City of Victoria, placing a significantly higher emphasis on condominium residences in lieu of rental apartments throughout towers rising as tall as 32-storeys.  Focus Equities

Vic West's 2,200-unit Roundhouse project switches gears with fewer rentals, more condos
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Spanning nearly two decades of visions and proposals, Focus Equities’ Roundhouse concept at Vic West’s Bayview lands has switched gears once more with an amended rezoning package now before the City of Victoria.
 
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The latest direction for Roundhouse – bordered by Esquimalt Road to the north, Catherine Street to the west, Kimta Road to the south and the already partially constructed Bayview Hilltop to the east – calls for a greater emphasis on condominium residences in lieu of its prior iteration from late 2020 through mid-2021 that sought a higher ratio of rental homes to condos.
 
Down from five all-rental towers totalling 1,100-units across one million square feet and the potential for rentals in two additional mixed-use condominium/hotel towers, the latest plan is now forecasting just two rental blocks, standing 24 and 26-storeys tall, with approximately 500 residences (half of which are described by Focus Equities as affordable units) across 400,000 square feet.
 
The loss in rentals represents a major gain for condominiums that now number just shy of 1,700-units throughout seven towers, three of which may include hotel uses (up from two with a mixed-use hotel designation from the earlier plan), compared some to 700 condo units in four towers. The square footage for the condo, and condo/hotel towers, has nearly doubled to 1.6 million square feet, including commercial spaces, while heights are proposed in the form of 23, 26, 28, 30 and 32-storey massings.
 
Focus’ report to the City states nearly 1.9 million square feet of residential, commercial and hotel space will be developed at the Roundhouse site, up from 1.8 million as per the prior proposal. This is in addition to 36,000 square feet of future retail space between the historic Stores, Carshop, Roundhouse and Backshop buildings already on-site that formerly serviced railway operations.
 
An aerial view of Vic West's Roundhouse lands.
An aerial view of the Roundhouse and Bayview lands in Vic West. Identified in light colouring with detail, centre left, are nine residential towers proposed for Focus Equities Roundhouse project along Esquimalt Road at Catherine Street. At right are massing depictions for upcoming towers at the Dockside Green lands along Tyee Road at Esquimalt Road.  Focus Equities
 
Building heights have shifted, too, with the tallest highrise now slated to rise 32-storeys in lieu of 31 with heights among nine towers now ranging from 23 to 32-floors, up from a minimum of 18-storeys.
 
An initially approved 2008 plan for Roundhouse called for five highrise towers all situated along the southern half of the Roundhouse lands. The commercial component was the guiding feature of that vision, and saw more open spaces throughout the property, plus a focus on what was then a still operating rail service and yard. 
 
The project took a significant turn in 2020 when Focus Equities proposed a departure from its initial proposal and various amendments between 2008 and 2020. At the time, a significant upswing in rental apartment densities was described as necessary for the viability of the project, as was a diversification of its commercial, cultural and retail amenities.
 
By mid-2021 Focus announced a cultural hub would be included along Kimta Road that could be designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, a visionary architect known for his eclectic style that infuses shapes and curvatures often appearing to defy the possibilities of the built form.
 
With an active rail line still running through the site – albeit with no scheduled rail services due to the E&N Railway’s cessation of regularly scheduled up-Island runs and no freight traffic – Focus hopes to incorporate a transportation component into its development that may eventually connect West Shore commuters with the city centre. Such a rail service has been under discussion for the better part of the last decade, although no senior levels of government have allocated resources to help support the initiative.
 
Already completed at Bayview’s Hilltop are three condominium towers: the Bayview One at 11-storeys, built in 2009, the Promontory (a former tallest building in the City of Victoria at 21-storeys) built in 2014, and the 18-storey Encore, completed in 2019. C
 
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