A rendering of a proposed mixed-use development at 525 Third Street. (D-Architecture image)

Mixed-use student housing development planned for Nanaimo’s university district

Construction on multi-phased project expected to begin in early 2018

A commercial-residential development that includes dedicated student housing and 66 multi-family rental units is one step closer to becoming a reality in Nanaimo.

At a meeting Dec. 4, Nanaimo city councillors approved a development permit application calling for the construction of three mixed-use buildings, a student housing building and multiple townhouse buildings at 525 Third Street.

According to plans submitted to the city by D-Architecture on behalf of Hai Yang Estate Developments Limited, the development would be built on an 18,531-square-metre site situated along Third Street between Wakesiah and Howard avenues.

The three mixed-use buildings would each feature 22 multi-family residential units that are available in one- and two-bedroom units. There would also be 805 square metres of commercial space in each building.

Hai Yang Estate Developments also plan to construct a four-storey building dedicated entirely for student housing that would include 206 beds within 96 units. Five townhouse buildings, two three-storey buildings facing Hillcrest Avenue and three two-storey buildings facing Watfield Avenue are also planned.

The site’s proposed location required rezoning, which was approved earlier this year. As part of the rezoning agreement, Hai Yang was required to provide a community contribution of $221,000. The money would be used to pay for road re-profiling, green design features and site amenities such as public space, according to the development application.

Although the development permit was approved, some councillors expressed about the community contribution aspect of the development.

Coun. Jerry Hong, who is on the city’s design advisory panel, told the News Bulletin that the community contribution information isn’t discussed or even provided during design advisory panel committee meetings because those meetings focus on form and character. Hong said staff informed him that changes can still be made as to how the community money is spent, adding that he wanted to see the community contributions from the developer be used toward improving public parks and building sidewalks, not improving public space on its own development.

“Usually when we take that money for community contribution, it goes towards something like a park or a community space around the park for improvements,” he said. “This is where I would like to see some of this money going towards things like installing more sidewalks along an elementary school, but to put the money into their own personal development or public space seem strange.”

Hong said he was pleased with how well D-Architecture and Hai Yang Estate Developments worked with the neighbours and the city to find a solution that satisfied the surrounding neighbourhood because there was a lot of “negative” feedback from the public when the development was first proposed.

“They listened to the concerns of the residents and the neighbours,” he said. “That’s a really good sign of being a good developer. So, we were very happy with it. As much as I would like more density, it is a neighbourhood setting.”

Daryoush Firouzli, principal architect for D-Architecture, said the entire project is worth $38 million and will benefit the neighbourhood.

“It’s an improvement to the area,” he said. “We are doing lots of upgrading of offsite services. We are bringing lots of infrastructure, including a water main from Wakesiah Avenue.”

Just getting to this point in the process has taken longer than normal, according to Firouzli, who said the first rezoning application was previously denied because there was concerns by nearby residents. He said those concerns have been addressed and parts of the project have been scaled back, including reducing the number of student housing units and removing lofts.

“It’s been a long time .. but in the end the neighbours were happy,” he said.

Firouzli said the project will be constructed in a series of phases, some of which will take place consecutively, and that construction is expected to begin sometime early next year.


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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