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Victoria condo buyers turn to emerging neighbourhoods amid COVID's market reset

A rendering of Esquimalt Town Square, a mixed-use, condominium, rental apartment, office and retail project nearing completion adjacent to Esquimalt's town hall. The comprehensive project is an example of a rise in urban densification efforts tapping into demand for emerging condominium markets on the south Island.  Aragon Properties

Victoria condo buyers turn to emerging neighbourhoods amid COVID's market reset
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
A new trend forming across the Capital’s housing industry is challenging the dominance of downtown Victoria as the go-to choice among condominium purchasers.
 
The city centre’s pre-sale offerings have traditionally maintained their status as the upper echelon of high density living through periods of market rallies and lulls, but that long-held advantage appears to have shifted in 2020 as growing numbers of buyers have begun to embrace new-build options rising in periphery areas and in the suburbs.
 
“This year has tested the notion that downtown Victoria is the foremost choice for purchasers of new condominium homes,” says local real-estate agent Marko Juras. “COVID-19 delivered a sort of reset for the industry, where priorities changed and urban-style living became more about individual projects and their unique settings rather than urban living equating almost exclusively with a downtown environment.”
 
Juras, who has brokered the purchases of over one hundred pre-sale homes throughout the region, says condominium developers are recognizing the opportunities that come with providing a broader housing choice in all areas of the Capital, particularly in neighbourhoods where traditional single-family-homes or townhomes have dominated the landscape while organically fostering unique commercial amenities.
 
“As homeowners age and begin to consider downsizing options, or as young couples take the leap into homeownership for the first time, the higher paced downtown lifestyle does not necessarily correlate with their housing choice, but that’s where, traditionally, the largest variety and quality of pre-sales have been available,” Juras said. “But now we’re seeing urban homes, with urban architecture, urban amenities and ground level retail spaces often featuring coffee shops or restaurants, markets and bakeries being built in periphery areas to downtown Victoria where they mesh into walkable, mixed-use communities.”
 
One municipality that has seen a relative surge in condominium developments is Esquimalt, which up until recently has maintained a low key approach to densification unlike its neighbour Victoria West.
 
And leading the charge there is a comprehensive, multi-phased redevelopment of Esquimalt’s municipal precinct adjacent to the town hall on Esquimalt Road and Park Place, known as Esquimalt Town Square. Built by Aragon Properties, a Vancouver-based developer with over 30 years of experience, and designed by Victoria-based D'Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism, it’s poised to change this community core for the better.
 
A move-in ready suite at The Arbutus, the first phase of condominiums at Aragon Properties' Esquimalt Town Square development.
A move-in ready suite at The Douglas, the first phase of condominiums at Aragon Properties' Esquimalt Town Square development.  Aragon Properties
 
Comprised of two condominium buildings – The Douglas and The Arbutus – a phase of rental apartments and an office and library complex, Esquimalt Town Square is an example of urban development extending beyond Victoria’s downtown into walkable, amenity-rich neighbourhoods long primed for an increase in residential density.
 
“Esquimalt’s location on the doorstep to downtown Victoria, its mature tree-lined streets and waterfront walking trails, parks and public beaches has made it one of the best kept secrets on the south Island,” says Luke Ramsay, Development Manager at Aragon. “And the support we’ve seen for more housing in the township, both from residents and council, is indicative of Esquimalt’s desire to capitalize on urban renewal efforts and economic opportunities that population growth can help sustain.”
 
Home to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, the NADEN graving dock and multiple military operations along its coastline, Esquimalt is one of the largest employment nodes in the Capital Region. And given its role as an economic driver on the south Island, the township’s infrastructure includes multiple high-frequency bus routes connecting downtown Victoria, UVic and Camosun College, shopping plazas, hospitals and the West Shore. Ample transit routes make a car-free lifestyle easy, and walking trails that include the oceanfront West Song Walkway into downtown Victoria give Esquimalt a highly pedestrian friendly ambiance.
 
Esquimalt’s commercial zone, which spans along Esquimalt Road from the City of Victoria border at Dominion Road to the Canadian Forces base, presents a variety of businesses and services a short walking distance from the town hall and civic district.
 
With home sales now underway at Esquimalt Town Square, Ramsay says Aragon's initial launch for the first condominium, known as The Douglas with 32 move-in ready one, two and three-bedroom suites, has tapped into growing demand for urban living outside of Victoria’s busy core. And the proof is in the numbers – it’s already over 60% sold.
 
“Based on the feedback we received through our introductory sales campaign, location has played a key role for our purchasers who value an established neighbourhood ambiance within a walkable commercial area,” Ramsay said, adding that “the Red Barn Market’s recent arrival to Esquimalt’s core, and the township’s already wide range of retail services were deciding factors for residents who are keen to reduce their dependence on cars.”
 
Kitchen and dining room.
A kitchen and dining room in a residence at The Douglas, the first phase of condominiums at Aragon Properties' Esquimalt Town Square development.  Aragon Properties
 
As part of Esquimalt Town Square, the township’s branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library will be relocating to the project next year as one of the anchor tenants. Local Favorite Esquimalt Roasting Company will occupy one of the ground floor commercial units, next to a food-based operator to be situated within an adjacent commercial space. There is also 40,000 square feet of office available for rent, scheduled for completion in 2021.
 
In addition to the positive impact of Esquimalt Town Square on its immediate area, more changes are earmarked for Esquimalt as local population growth picks up momentum.
 
Not far from the town hall and kitty-corner from the Red Barn Market on Esquimalt Road at Admirals Road, planning is underway for a 500-seat Irish-style pub and family dining restaurant. An initial submission to municipal planners shows the location as south of the new Tudor House Liquor Store with frontage onto Admirals Road. Meanwhile, an urgent care medical clinic is part of an approved development effort on Esquimalt Road at Head Street that will expand on the medical clinic at Esquimalt Plaza.
 
Upcoming improvements are also envisioned for the stretch of Esquimalt Road east of Head Street, which is currently home to Shoppers Drug Mart and other retailers. And further south at the foot of Head Street a project at West Bay Marina will deliver commercial spaces with residences above as part of a densification effort.
 
To learn more about Esquimalt Town Square and its pre-sale home offerings, view the project website here or call 250-385-6665. For enquiries related to commercial leasing, connect with Aragon Properties by calling Mike Lowe at 604-732-6170. C
 
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