The vision continues for Vic West with the Roundhouse at Bayview Place.
The 2008 zoning included extremely rigid design guidelines and restrictions that, combined with a “conceptual masterplan” that was also treated very rigidly, made it impossible to achieve a viable development permit to proceed with the development. An unusual “stepped” approach to the built form was mandated that was very difficult to construct and excessively expensive, and also had the disadvantage of being highly energy inefficient. Despite the important principle that guidelines and conceptual plans should be flexible to changing conditions (for example, the chaos and stress of the 2008 global recession), or more viable and buildable ideas, no flexibility in built form, phasing etc was permitted in the 2008 approvals.
Despite these obstacles, Mariash/Focus made best efforts to proceed with community-building, but many reputable design firms over years could not resolve the problems to get a viable development permit, leading us to conclude that the site was unbuildable under the current approvals.
The proposed new zoning would resolve the barriers in the design guidelines and restrictions, the masterplan problems, and the issues with the master development agreement on phasing and sequence of work. In short, the proposed revised zoning would allow community-building to proceed.
In addition, after years of careful listening to city leaders and the community, the revised zoning would also add much-needed rental and affordable housing, with additional ownership housing density to improve community planning, support successful on-site retailing/services, and help offset the financial burdens that come with the affordable housing and other challenges. We’ve accepted the challenge we’ve heard to be more ambitious in helping the City meet its many goals, particularly around more diverse housing and better affordability. We’ve also considered our new proposal carefully in light of the City’s important declaration of a Climate Emergency.
What we have learned since the existing 2008 approvals is that the density anticipated was too low for either viability or good community planning. The amended zoning would allow for more housing density to pay for affordable housing, rental housing, improved amenities, and more. It would also provide badly needed population support for the downtown (which is facing new post-pandemic challenges), and necessary support for the proposed on-site retailing, restaurants and services intended to make the local community more vibrant and livable. It would make better use of a unique, important and strategic site for the city.
Achieving the necessary density through taller and thinner buildings supports the creation of view corridors between buildings, more sun and light access to buildings/apartments, more usable and engaging at-grade open space and people-places for the community, and a much-less imposing building mass. They also take advantage of the site’s exceptional setting, establishing strong views and visual connections with nature and the city, and supporting a special “sense of place.” All of these features significantly enhance urban quality-of-life, which encourages residents to choose more sustainable urban living over less dense and far less sustainable suburban options.
Practically speaking, the Roundhouse site has relatively little land for building sites because of the Roundhouse and plaza coverage, the Lime Bay and ICF land use, and the no-build soft fill reclaimed land areas on the front of the site that are not able to provide foundation stability.
The limited building site coverage proposed from small footprints would leave approximately 35% of the site open compared to 80 to 90% for the city grids downtown that, if mimicked on this site, would create twice the number of buildings all pushed up to the sidewalks with very little setbacks.
It’s also important to note that with taller towers, the higher units usually sell or rent for more, allowing for project viability with less overall density, and for the lower floor units to sell for less or even close to “cost,” improving affordability.
Notwithstanding these various advantages of taller buildings, Ken Mariash has given further careful consideration of the interrelated issues of project viability, density and height, and is currently revising his proposal from the previous submission in December 2021. The revision reduces the density by a total of 200,000 sf and the building heights by a total of 30 floors, as illustrated on the diagram below.
In general, Victoria needs a lot more housing supply in smart locations, a fact well documented in the City’s own policies and goals, and frequently discussed by experts in local media in recent years. The housing supply shortage has reached crisis levels, fuelling the city’s corresponding affordability crisis, and hindering the City’s aspirations to address other overlapping priorities including the Climate Emergency Crisis.
More housing supply strategically close to downtown mitigates market price increases in the city while also helping households keep their transportation costs down. Victoria’s big challenge is that there are few well-positioned sites close to downtown and inside the urban core to meet the City’s own goals for more housing supply. That means the City needs to take best advantage of scarce sites and ensure they can proceed viably.
In addition to approximately 1,750 new purpose-built market rental apartments and for-sale apartments, Bayview is proposing to provide a smartly-located affordable housing site that will be built by the Greater Victoria Housing Society. More information on this proposal, which would represent an unprecedented affordable housing contribution achieved through a private development in Victoria, will be announced shortly.
In addition to badly-needed new housing, the Bayview proposal includes many additional significant public achievements that would not be realized without its successful completion.
The project scale is expected to give a presence and sense of arrival, branding, and identity to the large harbour entry, cruise ship arrival, seaplane, and helicopter activity.
The project is intended to be one of the first landmarks of significance completed since the Legislature Buildings and the Empress Hotel, except for smaller projects like the Laurel Point Inn, Shoal Point, the Delta Hotel, and the Harbour Place Hotel. The ground-level experience in the Roundhouse public realm will be notable and exceptional for the community, all residents, local and tourist visitors, and is expected to provide robust tax revenue and economic energy.
The project will provide, preserve, and protect the E&N railway corridor and Lime Bay Mews to the ocean; will create the new Roundhouse, turntable plaza, and other walking, riding, vehicle and bus access connecting to downtown, Esquimalt, Langford, and the rest of Vancouver Island; and support connections by air and sea to Vancouver and the United States across the Strait with the Coho and Clipper ferry services.
Ken Mariash started many of his first projects and companies around North America over 50 years ago while completing various degrees in math, science, arts, architecture, and commerce, as well as an MBA. He has extensive experience in design, construction, marketing, and project finance.
Patricia Mariash, as a graduate interior designer, started her own 40 to 50-person commercial design firm in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s that did a large percentage of the Los Angeles commercial market including markets outside Los Angeles. She then subsequently joined Ken in the development business.
After doing dozens of one and two building projects in many cities across Canada and the United States, the Focus and Mariash group began concentrating on large master planned projects in all asset classes. This included projects like Aurum Energy Park in Edmonton, Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary, and a four-tower project on the Skytrain in New Westminster. They have completed many additional individual building projects in Denver, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Los Angeles, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and a family farm in Tisdale, Saskatchewan.
Many of their projects have involved challenging contamination, market, phasing, political, infrastructure, zoning, and access problems. It is common for them to take on projects that have been previously attempted unsuccessfully by other developers.
Envisioned as a complete community, Roundhouse at Bayview Place will enliven Victoria West by providing a spectrum of housing choices, a distinct cultural centre, and a myriad of public benefits.
Here is a snapshot of what the proposed plan aspires to deliver.
A new opportunity to engage with Victoria’s rich history.
Providing new affordable and rental housing to meet the city's needs.
Active recreation in the community, built on the robust green spaces in Victoria West.
‘Connecting 2 of Victoria’s main bicycle routes with secure and convenient bicycle parking
Diversifying the accommodation mix in Victoria West provides support for Canada’s ageing population.
Imagine the Roundhouse home to a coffee roastery and cafe, a bakery, food emporium and more!
An active pedestrian link takes advantage of stunning views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces in Victoria West provide new community programming opportunities.