Royal Bay development fast taking shape in Colwood

Katherine Engqvist | Goldstream News Gazette
August 24, 2016

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Colwood’s newest seaside community welcomed its first residents last week.

“We’re pretty excited, there’s so much happening,” said Ben Mycroft, Royal Bay project director.

But while amenities for those residents continue to be added to the site, developers are also looking to offer more to neighbouring residents.

“We focus a lot on the public realm,” he noted, as crews continued to make improvements to Latoria Boulevard. “It’s neat to start to see the integration with surrounding neighbourhoods.” Mycroft added that he is increasingly seeing neighbouring residents out walking their dogs or going for a run through the site.

The entire Royal Bay project is designed to eventually become a series of inter-connected communities. All of those mini communities will share a certain walkability, with all homes within a five-minute walk from a park.

With 2,300 homes planned to house approximately 7,000 people, that’s a lot of park space. Mycroft said roughly 25 per cent of the site – approximately 100 acres – is earmarked for parks and it was a significant part of the site design. “It’s a real focus for the development.”

With its own master plan that has been adopted by Colwood council, Royal Bay will take an estimated 20 years to fully build out. “For Victoria that’s the reality of how fast you can build homes,” Mycroft said, noting it is also a nice, measured pace for Colwood residents. “We’re here for the long haul,” he added.

But it’s not just houses that are popping up on the current landscape. While the site spent 100 years as a gravel pit, the developers are working hard to introduce new ecosystems and restore some natural elements.

“We’re very proud of Meadow Park … It’s the first park we’ve built,” Mycroft said of the new green space, visible from Latoria Boulevard. “We’ve invested in this beautiful park that’s going to be an asset to all Colwood residents.”

A blue construction fence is keeping onlookers from entering the space while the last few finishing touches are made.

But residents can clearly see that the manicured, urban-style space also incorporates wood elements in a naturalized play park. “There’s an old growth stump that has been carved into a play feature,” Mycroft noted.

The park also features a storm channel that connects with Murray’s Pond. While the rock bed is dry in the summer months, it will flood during stormy weather.

Landscaping in the park is also a step in a new direction. “We’ve introduced a Garry oak ecosystem,” he said. “It’s quite rare; it’s a threatened ecosystem in the Victoria area.”

A similar landscaping design is also featured along the site’s main road, Latoria Boulevard, which will eventually connect directly to the new Royal Bay Beach Park, scheduled to open on Sept. 10. That beach access may just be the site’s best kept secret. The roughly 1.3 kilometres of waterfront used to provide the main access to the site’s mine. In more recent years, it has seen its fair share of grad parties as public access was limited. That is all set to change next month.

“It’s very important to us to provide access for not just future Royal Bay residents, but all Colwood residents,” Mycroft said. “It’s pretty cool that we’re able to provide this new amenity.”

Less than a kilometre away from Esquimalt Lagoon, the park has been a priority for the development and the plan is to “make it an exciting and vibrant recreational venue.”

More details on the Beach Park will be released closer to the grand opening. In the meantime, Mycroft said, the goal is “re-connecting to other parts of Colwood.”

Part of that means minimizing some of the negatives that go along with construction.

“We go to great lengths to keep all of our neighbours happy,” he said. “Purely out of respect for our neighbours, we require our contractors to use non-disturbing backup indicators.” He noted they also invest heavily in dust suppression measures.

While those water trucks make regular appearances travelling on Latoria Boulevard, it’s also hard to miss the site of the future Neighbourhood House.

“The idea behind the Neighbourhood House is to provide a sense of place for Royal Bay,” Mycroft said. “The residents we’ve talked to have expressed real excitement.”

The building itself is meant to be an icon on the Royal Bay landscape, both in design and by offering a number of amenities for residents including a cafe, recreational space and areas for families to use for events. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed by the end of 2017.

With more homes taking shape on the massive property, it’s definitely getting harder to see the old gravel pit.