Nanaimo city council issued a development permit this month for an 160-unit student housing building close to university campus.
At a meeting June 7, council granted a parking variance and issued a permit for the mixed-use project at 326 Wakesiah Ave. close to Third Street.
The four-storey building is slated to include 162 student apartments, including three one-bedroom suites, three two-bedroom suites and the remainder studio suites. Each floor will include space for a student lounge. There will also be three ground-floor commercial units facing Wakesiah.
The project will include a mural wall, green roof, garden space and a public pedestrian connection to Hillcrest Avenue, and the building will be constructed to exceed energy step code requirements by one step, according to a staff report.
The developer sought the parking variance to be able to provide 62 spaces instead of the 77 required under the parking bylaw. However, the applicant commissioned a parking study “that concluded that the proposed parking variance is supportable” due to the building’s location on the edge of the university mobility hub and on a frequent transit network, noted the staff report. City staff supported the variance, but councillors debated it at the June 7 meeting.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said a majority of students drive, if not to the university then for work, and said there isn’t enough parking in the area. Coun. Ian Thorpe agreed, saying he felt he had to “draw a hard line” on parking requirements.
“Parking is very much at a premium in this area and we’re further constricting it,” he said.
The majority of council, however, was comfortable with the variance.
“If we design for cars, we will have cars,” said Coun. Don Bonner. “This is a design for a future with fewer cars.”
Mayor Leonard Krog said the city has to put accommodation needs ahead of parking needs in that area and Coun. Tyler Brown said the way to avoid debates about parking is by “fully funding our transit system to what a modern system should provide.”
Council voted 6-2 to issue the development permit, with Armstrong and Thorpe opposed.