A plan to create more than 160 units of student housing close to Vancouver Island University has advanced to the design phase.
The City of Nanaimo’s design advisory panel is slated to review this week an application for a four-storey, 162-unit student housing project at 326 Wakesiah Avenue.
In the fall, Nanaimo city council voted to pass third reading of a re-zoning application to designate 326 and 308 Wakesiah Ave. and 307 Hillcrest Ave. into mixed-use corridor zoning, with a site-specific land use supporting student housing.
The development application was subsequently submitted in the spring by Island West Coast Developments.
“The proposed development is a modern, efficient student housing facility that will serve the Vancouver Island University’s urgent need for student accommodations,” wrote architect Xeniya Vins of WA Architects Ltd., in a design rationale letter accompanying the development application.
Each floor will have more than 50 student apartments with shared laundry facilities and a student lounge. The complex will consist of 156 one-bedroom suites and six two-bedroom suites. A city staff report noted that the ground floor would have three commercial retail units “for restaurant use.”
Vins noted that 40 per cent of the units will have balconies “to allow for [a] dynamic, interesting facade, while limiting potential noise transmission to neighbouring properties.”
She added that a “modern, fun design esthetic” is being proposed, including “peekaboo” pops of colour around the building and a feature graffiti art wall along a public walkway between Wakesiah and Hillcrest avenues.
“We envision this wall as a canvas for local artists and community members to create vibrant and exciting art (permanent or ever-changing), to be enjoyed by all…” Vins wrote. “It will act as an outdoor art gallery, one that can be further expanded as future adjacent properties are developed, to become a true public forum, a place of community participation and engagement.”
Parking would be a mix of ground-level under-the-building parking and surface parking. The applicant is seeking a variance to reduce parking from 77 stalls to 60.
No Nanaimo residents spoke about the re-zoning application at last fall’s public hearing. A staff report notes that the application was referred to the Harewood Neighbourhood Association, which commented that “the location was seen as suitable for student housing” but expressed concerns about a perceived “proliferation” of student housing projects being approved in that area.