An artist rendering of a proposed rental development at 4800 Uplands Drive and 6300 Linley Valley Drive. (HARPER ARCHITECTURE and DESIGN image)

Development with more than 200 rental units proposed for Nanaimo’s north end

Three buildings would be located at Uplands and Linley Valley drives

More than 250 apartment units could be coming to Nanaimo’s Longwood Station neighbourhood.

MacDonald Gray Consultants, on behalf of Calgary-based developers, Northview REIT, have submitted a development permit application to the City of Nanaimo, proposing the construction of three four-storey residential rental buildings at 4800 Uplands Dr., for a total of 251 units.

Each building will contain a mixture of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units according the development application. Approximately 90 per cent of the parking for the property will be underground, while there were also be bicycle parking provided. The application states that each building would also have its own gym.

Access points to the property will be from Uplands Drive and Linley Valley Drive.

Northview’s proposal was first received by the city’s design advisory panel back last November, according to a staff report, which notes that the panel did not support the project and ordered the Calgary company to revise its plans to “better relate to the buildings to the site” and improve their form and character.

Since then, Northview has made numerous changes to their application, including reducing the height of a retaining wall and altering building entrances and facades.

A height variance ranging from one to two metres for each building has been requested and is supported by the design advisory panel, which endorsed the project and recommended it come before council.

Nigel Gray, principal planning designer with MacDonald Gray, told the News Bulletin the development is a “campus” of rental apartments with plenty of open space because of a covenant requiring 90 per cent of the property’s parking be underground.

“It’s a campus design, so three buildings and a campus overlooking Uplands Drive,” Gray said. “It has got a pretty significant open space portion to it … so that gives us a nice large open area between the buildings and it also gives us enough area to do kind of a natural play area for young kids.”

Gray said there were a number of requirements known as covenants on the properties. He said the covenants have probably been on title for a long time, likely from an era when planners and municipalities frequently used covenants.

“The site is highly constrained. The things that you don’t see is all the covenants on title. So we are required to have a 75- to 100-metre buffer strip along the Uplands Estate property line, which is the east property line,” he said. “We’re also required to have a three-metre public trail.”

While the cost of providing underground parking is higher than providing ground level parking, Gray said the end result is a development that looks much better and has more amenities to offer, adding that Northview isn’t going to flip the property.

“It is the better play and better for Nanaimo,” he said. “They can spend the money on those things and not worry about the return immediately. They’re in it for the long term.”

Coun. Tyler Brown, who recently became council’s representative on the design advisory panel, said because the development is purpose-built rental apartments, it will bring a much-needed mix of people to the neighbourhood.

“It provides a new stock of smaller unit types that are currently lacking in the area,” Brown said. “It appeals to a broader range of occupants, such as downsizes, couples, singles, students. So, it is good to get that mix in this area. We have that in some of the other areas but we don’t necessarily have a lot in the Longwood area.”

Brown, who was not part of the panel when the changes were recommended, said Northview’s proposal fits well with the neighbourhood. He also said the development also reinforces council’s desire to see more infill and “complete” communities throughout the municipality, including the Longwood Station neighbourhood.

Gray referred comments about changes to the development and construction timelines to Northview, which could not be reached by press time. 
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