Thursday, June 01, 2006

Western Communities set to tower over “old town” Victoria

In the news of late has come word of 30 story plus condominium projects that are set to rise in communities such as Colwood and Langford.

From both an environmental and demographic standpoint such projects are arriving just in time to save the region. This is because when it comes to urban development there are only two options: building up (i.e. condo towers) or building out (i.e. sprawling sub-divisions).

Of course there are those who want neither, but short of closing the airport and selling off BC Ferries that isn’t a realistic option. As our steadily rising real estate prices attest to, lots of Canadians, particularly wealthy boomers who are now approaching their retirement years, want to live here. So do a lot of people from the United States, Asia and Europe.

These generally wealthier and older immigrants are tired of shoveling snow and swatting mosquitoes, and they don’t want to mow the lawn either. They want a high-end low maintenance residence from which to enjoy the remainder of their retired or semi-retired years. In short they want luxury condos, not single family homes.

Not wanting to destroy the old town ambience of its community Victoria has generally said no to high-rise condominium projects. The Agricultural Land Reserve hems in most municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula, so that has left communities such as Colwood, Langford and Sooke as the new centres of economic and population growth for the area.

When everyone else was busy saying no, Langford cashed in and attracted a large number of big box retailers, which has helped make Langford the envy of most other municipalities within the CRD. Colwood in the meantime has now realized that if you build up those condo towers will have million dollar views of both water and mountains.

Also, unlike single-family homes, condos actually pay more in property taxes than they consume in municipal services. Thus these new towers and the revenue they bring will allow Colwood to start providing the same level of service and public amenities that residents of Langford have now come to enjoy.

The long held dream of utilizing the south end of the E&N railroad would finally become economically viable. This is because you will finally have enough population living in the western communities to make a commuter rail line between downtown Victoria and Westshore economically viable.
Best of all by building up rather than out, it will allow for much of the green space and farm land in the region to be preserved. So hats off to Colwood and hats off to Langford for having the vision and courage to say yes to high-rise condominium towers.