Huge community to take shape in coming years on southern Vancouver Island
The Royal Bay master-planned community will take shape on the waterfront on southern Vancouver Island, with a public beach.
Buyers will be able to choose from numerous options with the GableCraft homes, including floor plans, colour schemes, finishes and exterior elements. Prices start from $519,900 for three- and four-bedroom homes. A quarter of the 400-acre site will be green space.
The first phase of the Royal Bay development will be 28 single-family GableCraft homes, which will be designed and built with young families in mind. Future building will include townhomes and rental apartments.
Hours: by appointment only
Sales begin: July 2016
Occupancy: Summer 2016 Phase I
It seems like a lofty task – potentially even impossible – to have a master-planned community be all things to all people, but Greater Victoria’s Royal Bay could have that potential.
The sizable location of the Colwood community makes it a decidedly unique place, according to Russell Tibbles, president of site developer Royal Bay Community Limited Partnership.
“This is 400 acres of oceanfront property – it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he explains. “It’s going to be a complete, cohesive, and inclusive community with a mix of residential and office space, parks, schools and shops.”
For a century, the location functioned as a rock quarry, but even then, its natural beauty was evident. Tibbles says Emily Carr spent a summer painting in the region in the 1930s. In addition to breathtaking expanses of ocean, people can take in rolling hillsides and green space galore.
During the planning process for Royal Bay, the team made it a mission to ensure there would be a park within a five-minute walk of every home. With an eventual 2,300 homes in total — ranging from single-family homes, townhomes and rental apartments and strata condominiums in low to mid-rise buildings — it was a challenge, but one that was a high priority.
In total, 100 acres – a quarter of the site – has been set aside as green space. They include parks with natural trails and high bluffs to urban-style playgrounds and an oceanfront park. The 1.3-kilometre long oceanfront stretch is completely publicly accessible, and residents may be able to look forward to kiteboarding and kayaking just steps away from their front doors.
Tibbles also says work is being done on creating a Garry Oak ecosystem, which is both region-specific and relatively rare. It includes mosses, grasses, rock outcroppings, and meadows, which will create habitat for native species.
With all that being said, Tibbles says the area has more to offer than just access to the great outdoors.
“The Westshore has really grown and come of age. It’s a dynamic area with beaches, restaurants, urban amenities, and offers an active lifestyle that’s very compelling to people. We took a look at the best practices and principles from areas around the world and have tried to apply them here to provide quality of life.”
Key to this was creating a real sense of community. From building so many different types of housing on the site, Tibbles says they expect to see every type of possible purchaser at every life stage, from first-time buyers to seniors. He believes they will come in a wide range of ages, with different budgets, and many different socioeconomic groups represented.
He believes they will become a tight-knit community over time because of the emphasis on pedestrian and cycling paths, as well as roadways, and gathering points like neighbourhood parks and coffee shops. Groundbreaking will take place in July for Royal Bay’s ‘neighbourhood house’, which will house a restaurant and café for the surrounding residential area, as well as community space. A new high school opened for the community in September 2015, with planning work continuing on a new elementary school. Royal Roads University isn’t particularly far away either. And for those who want to go into town, it’s an approximately 25 minute drive to downtown Victoria.
When it comes to the single-family homes being built in the first phase, GableCraft Homes president Alex Ferguson says they had young families in mind.
“The members of our design team are members of this demographic themselves. We spent a lot of time thinking through the finer points of say, where to put muddy boots and backpacks when coming into the home through the back entry, or where a powder room would make the most sense.”
They also thought through ‘zones’ in the homes, where as necessary, families could spend time together, or separate into children’s areas and private spaces for grown-ups. They went over laundry rooms and pantries with a fine-tooth comb, emphasizing functionality and storage capabilities.
Understanding that this type of homebuying process – where there are multiple options available for interiors and exteriors — can be complicated, they have set up the GableCraft Home Store to walk consumers through the myriad decisions involved. They can choose between different floor plans, colour schemes, finishes, and exterior elements. The homes include front porches and detached garages that open up to wide paved lanes in the back – perfect for a little street hockey or roller-skating.
“We don’t want people to feel pressured or rushed, so we’ve set up private viewings to let people get to know us and the product,” Ferguson explains. “This is about building relationships and controlling the rollout of homes, because there are lots more coming.”
Both Tibbles and Ferguson say most of the interest is coming from people who are already in the immediate community, in Greater Victoria, or in the Lower Mainland. They expect the vast majority of buyers to be end users.
They also agree the guiding principle is to get things right, rather than get everything built right away. The full build out process could take the next two decades to complete, which will allow them to be responsive to changing community needs, and allow Royal Bay to grow as a neighbourhood at its own natural pace.