Victoria Real Estate Updates and Trends

University Heights Shopping Centre, Acquired by an American Firm Ahead of 590-unit Rental and Retail Redevelopment Effort

Saanich’s University Heights Shopping Centre’s redevelopment is back on track after its sale to the South Carolina-based real-estate development and investment firm Greystar. The announcement was made by Wesbild Holdings which is the former owner of the McKenzie Avenue and Shelbourne Street mall and the metro Vancouver-based firm behind a municipal approvals process envisioning a significant redevelopment effort.

Plans for the complex are focused on its transformation into a modern mixed-use residential and retail destination.

“We have worked on this project for more than four years and we are excited to see it proceeding which is good news for this community and the future of University Heights,” said Wesbild President Kevin Layden. “We have worked closely with the District of Saanich on the need for more residential rental homes. With their support and subject to project approval, over 590 rental apartments will be constructed including 60 homes designated as affordable. We believe that Greystar will be an excellent developer of the site and we will do everything we can to ensure a smooth handoff.”

The redevelopment of the over four-decade-old University Heights will include four six-storey tall rental residential and commercial buildings, an 11,000 square foot daycare space, the adjacent cycling infrastructure’s renovation, and electric vehicle charging stations. The portion housing a Home Depot will remain operational throughout construction.

According to Greystar, the shopping centre’s acquisition represents their primal entry into the Canadian marketplace. New offices of the firm can now be found in Vancouver and Victoria.

“We are thrilled to have this as our first major investment in Canada,” said John Wilbeck, the Vancouver- based Managing Director at Greystar. “This isn’t just a project for us – it is the development of a true, thriving community. Although Greystar is a global company, the redevelopment of University Heights will support local jobs and local companies, and we look forward to developing strong community relationships.”

A fourth reading and bylaw adoption at the District of Saanich is scheduled for the redevelopment plan later this month. Devon Properties, the premier property management, and real estate services firm in Greater Victoria will be responsible for the day-to-day retail management of the shopping centre.

“We have always worked hard to ensure this important project will fulfill many of the priorities of Saanich residents,” Layden says. “I know Greystar shares our commitment to enhancing the community with a new supply of residential rental homes, much-needed daycare spaces, and transit infrastructure. As construction is anticipated to begin shortly following fourth reading and bylaw adoption, the timing is right for this ownership transition.”

The plan is estimated to generate more than 300 construction-related jobs throughout its construction phase, plus another 200 permanent positions will be yielded by the new retail centre, Greystar says.

“We are excited to bring our expertise to this transformative project that will address some of this region’s greatest needs,” said Matt Woodland, Managing Director at Greystar. “As a Victoria native and resident, I look forward to the growth we will bring to this vibrant community. From students to seniors, the new University Heights will be a sustainable community to live, work, and play.”

The parties did not disclose the transaction price.

The first plan to redevelop University Heights emerged in 2017. Located along Shelbourne Street and Cedar Hill Road at McKenzie Avenue, the complex is currently housing a Home Depot and Save-On-Foods within its 205,500-square-foot vicinity. A Landmark Cinemas movie theatre, a fitness centre, and some 30 smaller retailers including popular dining destination J.J. Morgan Restaurant was featured in the area prior to its winding down of retail operations ahead of construction.

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