An Esquimalt developer hopes to see bigger and bolder projects amid the housing crisis

An Esquimalt developer hopes to see bigger and bolder projects amid the housing crisis

A regional representative of land and property developers says he hopes to see experienced developers with good track records proposing bold housing projects amid uncertainty in the real estate market.

On Monday, April 8, the City of Esquimalt voted to approve a building permit for an amenity-filled, 26-story residential building — twice the height of the current tallest building in the municipality.

“We have to be pessimistic in today’s environment. I mean we can’t look back at the way we’ve approved and made housing in the past decades, and expect that could be the way we take going forward,” said Jordan Milne, president of GMC Projects, a developer program who recommended. the building.

On top of the Esquimalt property, permits were approved for the 97-unit GMC development in Sidney, which Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said is “much needed multi-unit housing by the city.”

Both projects saw support from community leaders, politicians, First Nations, and current tenants of GMC properties, support that Milne said is few and far between when it comes to development companies in the area.

“Projects like GMCs are fantastic examples of unique solutions that provide housing, and services at a time when we need them most,” said Ben Mycroft, regional chairman of the Urban Development Institute, which represents individuals involved in all aspects of development. of land. . “They are well-managed and well-capitalized developers with a good track record, and they have a unique project proposition and a good service package, so I think the municipality should be, especially if they are OCP compliant, approving these projects right now, for that reason is a clear sign that the region is sending.

Mycroft said that right now, some “second-tier” developers have taken on too much debt, and other projects are struggling, which could be a good opportunity for developers with capital and experience to take on new projects as more properties are sold, however, some property owners land owners still feel that their land is worth more even if the market disagrees, construction costs are rising, and some municipalities are charging higher fees to developers.

Despite the economic challenges, he thinks large manufacturers with good track records, such as GMC, may be in a position to define projects in the next market cycle.

“The only challenge is the infrastructure side, and just recognizing that developers should be paid a fair share,” he said. “I think there is also a need to create new homes going forward, and we don’t want to have this kind of big black hole gap when the province announces all these housing goals.”

GMC Projects however, is not a leading or world-class developer like Polygon or Concord Pacific in Vancouver; are family owned and located in Esquimalt, with a portfolio covering the Capital Regional District with properties in Vancouver, Washington, and Manitoba.

“A lot of manufacturers spend a lot of money promoting themselves as to why they’re so good, and why they’re the best or maybe the most prestigious, and we try to let our actions speak for themselves,” Milne said. .

The Esquimalt development, along with many of their other properties, features multi-million dollar amenities and community spaces such as dog parks, gyms, music rooms, rooftop terraces and community kitchen spaces.

Jamie McCallum, who championed the Esquimalt development, approached GMC Projects in 2020 with the idea of ​​opening a salon that would use tip money to provide free haircuts.

“(During the COVID-19 pandemic) I wasn’t making enough money, and the regular management company wouldn’t let me come in based on my income, they’d be like, ‘You can’t afford it,'” McCallum said. . “But I had an idea that I thought might work, so I approached (GMC) and they said yes, and it’s been great ever since.”

He said they have done a good job and paid for the damaged appliances and the food that was spoiled when his refrigerator broke, and he is getting a roof top and a community space in a different building on the same block. They also support fundraising initiatives and community events McCallum leads.

“The right thing to do, in my opinion, is if you’re going to have a transformational development, regardless of its size, that site will be a transformational development,” Milne said. “How can we make the development of changes that bring more benefits to society and create more opportunities for success for society and a healthy life to succeed.”

Amid economic problems and uncertainty in the development sector, Milne hopes to set a precedent for future developments in the CRD.

“Once you see people who are willing to be brave and ambitious, and take that attitude, and they’re successful, other people will follow suit. It’s when, despite all that, you still get a no from the council, the message being sent is ‘OK, then I will only do the minimum required,” he said. “We will have to realize that we are on an island, we are surrounded by water, a reserve of agricultural land and urban boundaries, we will need to go up to be able to provide the housing that is needed.”

Read more: The City of Esquimalt has approved permits for a 26-story residential building