A developer’s intuition can be its most trusted asset. Intuition about location, design and timing can make the difference between a successful community and a hard-to-sell bargain. In the case of Focus Equities, its intuition about 10 acres it purchased on the Inner Harbor waterfront in Victoria, British Columbia was so strong that the company went back to purchase more. “It’s very seldom that you get an open site located by the ocean, within walking distance to a very interesting downtown core,” says Kenneth Mariash, founder of Focus Equities. “When we saw the first 10-acre parcel it was very compelling. We bought that in the 1990s and later on we purchased another 10 acres.” The 20-acre property is known as Bayview Place and represents the last developable piece of land on Victoria’s Inner Harbor.
Focus Equities has developed a master plan for Bayview comprised of residential towers interspersed with retail, hospitality and office space. The site was originally zoned for 10-story towers, similar to what is already in the vicinity. However, the company wanted to make a unique mark on the area’s skyline and is approved to build 21-story residential towers on the site.
Development for the luxury community is well under way and some components are complete. The road infrastructure is halfway complete, and the company has completed a 2-acre public park. One of the planned residential towers, Bayview One, is finished and occupied. Bayview One is a 10-story world-class building with the highest level of design and construction that was completed in 2009 and has been a success in the community. Mariash says that only five or six of the 140 units remain. In addition to the sleek and modern design of the residential units, Bayview One offers amenities such as concierge service, a business center with a 14-seat meeting room, fitness center, oversized whirlpool and sauna, an outdoor barbecue and entertainment space, and indoor lounge set in a picturesque backdrop that includes the Olympic Mountains, Mount Baker and the Sooke Foothills.
While these residents enjoy their current living space, another luxury residential tower – the 21-story Promontory – is to begin construction this year. Focus Equities is the master developer for Bayview Place and has developed components such as Bayview One, but offers opportunity for involvement from other developers. Much of the community is subdivided into parcels for commercial, residential and hospitality development. This subdivision provides Focus Equities the ability to sell parcels to other developers in a given niche, which is the case with Promontory.
The developer for Promontory is the British Columbia-based BOSA properties, a major developer of residential condominiums. “BOSA is a company that builds 2,000 to 3,000 units a year, primarily in the Vancouver area,” Mariash says. “But they liked the plans for Bayview Place and decided to take on two sites and build them as soon as possible. Promontory is already being developed and they have prepared drawings and permits for the second building.”
A Piece of History
Another feature in the early stages of development is the Roundhouse, a historic site that will be the centerpiece to Bayview’s retail portion. The 1913-constructed buildings contain a rich historical beauty and were formerly owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and used to maintain and store railroad equipment. The site is now a protected national landmark adding history to the still-developing community. The Roundhouse will be surrounded by another 40,000 square feet of retail including dining, shopping and entertainment. Roundhouse is currently in the design stage.
“We are working with engineers to bring the building up to current seismic standards,” Mariash says. “We also have architects doing conceptual designs of how the area and the building itself can be brought to a higher architectural standard and design without disturbing its historic appearance. It’s a very delicate challenge.” Rehabilitation of Roundhouse should be completed by 2014, and final plans for the Bayview community include additional residential towers, senior living residences, a luxury hotel and professional office space.
While Focus continues leading progress at Bayview, it is also developing two other large projects both in Alberta. One is in response to the expected influx of energy companies who will establish operations related to the Albathasca Oil Sands. The Aurum Energy Park, an 800-acre industrial park in Edmonton, has three phases totaling more than 300 acres already complete, sold and operational. The remaining 450 acres, which comprises the most attractive properties on the site, are still being developed.
Deerfoot Meadows, its other current development, is a billion-dollar, 400-acre retail district that boasts approximately 40 million visitors located near a main Alberta freeway that connects to the Trans-Canada highway. The Calgary retail center also draws in visitors from surrounding provinces such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Much of the land has been developed, however another 500,000 square feet is still planned for future development.
“It’s not very often you get a 400-acre site just for retail,” Mariash says. “It’s a very prominent project and it put us on the map certainly in Canada, but also in North America and around the world.”