Victoria real-estate development Q&A with Sam Ganong of Curate Developments
Ten on the 10th
Published September 10, 2020
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.
September's Ten on the 10th features Sam Ganong of Curate Developments, a firm based in Victoria, BC.
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.
You have an impressive track record of past success for a prominent Victoria development company. What made you decide to start your own company (Curate Developments)?
Starting a development company was definitely a dream come true, and with a good amount of experience, support from my family, and a healthy amount of naivety, Curate was established in 2018. I think starting Curate ultimately came down to a desire to pursue an entrepreneurial itch. The idea of creating something from scratch for my family and I was intriguing, and it felt like a now or never moment.
Curate exists to create design-focussed homes that we can be proud of and the residents can love.
Currently, we’re working on five projects within Victoria and Saanich including townhomes, condos, and purpose-built rentals. Our focus isn't necessarily on a specific product type, but on where we feel there is an underserved segment of the market.
You have been working with a few of my clients to assist in their efforts to rezone their properties. Tell us more about this part of your business.
In addition to our own projects, we act as development manager for landowners looking to maximize their property value and execute on their own development vision. We have extensive knowledge and experience in the Victoria market, strong relationships, and an efficient workflow that can be leveraged to create value for our clients.
With respect to residential developments, where do you feel there is an underserved segment of the market, or somewhere there might be an opportunity to explore?
New townhouses in Victoria and Saanich are notoriously difficult to develop, and as a result are in demand from a broad market segment ranging from young professionals and families to downsizers. The main reason for this is because single-family home values are high, and trying to purchase a minimum of three houses in a row at a reasonable price to justify redevelopment is next to impossible. In addition, if these new townhouses are limited to less than three storeys, the resulting low density will never be able to justify redeveloping single-family houses into townhouses.
On that note, do you feel there is a solution to providing incentives or possibilities for developers so they can facilitate the various types of residential housing?
Having municipal policies in place that support different forms of housing throughout the region is a needed step. These policies need to be baked into the zoning. For example, being able to build a duplex or fourplex on a single-family zoned lot should be common. The term associated with this is Missing Middle and/or Gentle Density, where a variety of housing types and forms exist in a neighbourhood supporting a range of incomes and demographics. The key here is to have it part of the zoning bylaw to eliminate the need for rezoning. This will also open up the ability for “mom-and-pop” developers to build in their own community.
Are you currently working on any projects that could meet this demand?
We are going through development approvals for two townhouse projects.
Our Washington townhomes are located in Victoria, near Cecilia Ravine Park, the Galloping Goose Trail and Selkirk Waterfront. The proposal is for 34 units including 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms which are being designed with We’re hoping to have approvals by the end of this year with construction starting in 2021.
Our next townhome project, called Ophir, is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Mt. Tolmie Neighbourhood of Saanich. The proposal is for 16 units including 3 and 4 bedrooms with generously sized private yards. This will be one of, if not the first, townhouse project to be proposed based on Saanich’s Shelbourne Valley Action Plan which was adopted in 2017.
What is your approach to community engagement and consultation?
I’ve always found the most success engaging with people on a one-on-one basis, or in small groups. This takes up loads more time than hosting one or two larger engagement sessions, but it creates an opportunity to connect with people on a more personal level. Hearing their direct concerns when sitting in their living room looking out at the development site creates a different perspective of how the project might impact them.
NIMBYism is often a challenge for developers. How do you address opposition to densification and development?
I don’t have a good answer for this. All I know is our city is a beautiful place to live, work, raise a family, retire, etc. As a result, our population will likely continue to grow and we need to create more housing to accommodate more people. This isn’t a new phenomenon, so I don’t understand why existing residents are valued more than new residents. We’ve all been new residents at some point. Maybe that’s a good place to start - trying to find common ground?
Are you finding it more challenging to secure financing for new land acquisitions and construction during the current COVID-19 climate?
For the type of projects we’re developing, I haven’t seen a significant change in appetite or lending criteria from our local lenders. Creating new relationships may be a bit of a challenge right now.
What challenges (other than financing if that is a challenge) are developers experiencing as a result of the pandemic?
Conducting meaningful community engagement is definitely a challenge right now for the obvious reasons.
I think there are also some anxieties around condo pre-sales at the moment. I don’t foresee conversion rates decreasing, but it will just take longer for those who are interested to have the confidence to purchase.
What’s next for Curate?
We’re excited to build-out our upcoming projects and see homeowners and residents move-in and love their new home that we’ve helped create. Beyond that, it's continuing to find opportunities, whether that be our own or our clients, to create great projects with lasting relevance and value.
Check out our website to stay on top of our projects.
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- Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd love to hear from you
- View CBRE Victoria's website here
- View Curate Developments' website here
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