Wesgroup adds rental units to gain density at Brewery District

Wesgroup Properties is adding movin' on up by adding rental units at the Brewery District.

City council recently agreed to amend the site’s zoning and master development permit amendments so Wesgroup can add 42,000 square feet of additional site density to future buildings on the site, in exchange for providing 84,000 sq.ft of secured market rental housing in Building 5. It also increased the maximum permitted building height and buildable area for future buildings six and seven, and increased the maximum height for building eight.

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“We are looking to substitute 84,000 square feet of strata residential with secured market rental,” said Evan Allegretto, director of development for the Wesgroup. “To do so we are asking for 42,000 square feet of strata residential. We are looking to specify the floorplates and building heights.”

Council also agreed to provide a minimum requirement for 65,000 sq.ft. of health care office and/or medical space in certain parts of the site, and to add “microbrewery, winery and distillery” and “commercial school” to the list of permitted uses.

Located on East Columbia Street, a number of buildings are still in the works for the master planned site. Three commercial buildings at the site are completed and occupied, and the project’s first residential building is currently under construction.

Building five, which had been slated to be 100 per cent strata residential, will now be 50 per cent rental and 50 per cent strata.

“Why is secured rental important to the community? Secured rental protects tenancy long-term,” Allegretto said. “It means the owner of a rental building cannot evict a renter with the same rules as a strata owner would be allowed to. It is more affordable. Rent increases are capped. Currently there is a huge lack of supply in the rental market.”

As part of its rezoning application, the Wesgroup consulted with the community and commissioned a survey of area residents. While most people in the neighbourhood were supportive of the project, Allegretto said those who opposed were concerned about traffic, too much densification, parking issues and a misunderstanding of the current zoning bylaw.

“We are proposing to add additional height to buildings six, seven and eight. Building six has six additional storeys, building seven has two storeys and building eight has five storeys,” Allegretto said. “Building eight, the last office building, has increased by five floors to accommodate flexibility for future tenants and also to accommodate the originally zoned density that helps support the economic heath cluster.”

Wesgroup is planning to increase the number of parking stalls at the Brewery District from 1,786 to 2,075 in order to reduce parking impacts on the neighbourhood, and to meet the needs of new homes and larger units in the development. Of the 93 secured market rental units planned for the Brewery District, 20 per cent will be three bedrooms and 33 per cent will be two bedrooms.

“Traffic is obviously an issue in the community,” Allegretto said. “Through the engagement process the community asked us to find ways to remove the demand for traffic on East Columbia. As a result, the proponent proposed an entry off of Keary Street for the last two buildings. This was intended to help reduce the traffic demand on East Columbia.”

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