Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Higher density needed near UVic

UVic is no longer a small undergraduate university, it is now one of Canada's major universities. Having it still sitting in the middle of the suburbs and there being no redevelopment around it makes little or no sense.

UVic has 16500 undergrad students, 2400 graduate students and 5500 faculty and staff, a total of 24400 people. This is a large number of people that need to be housed somewhere in the CRD, very few of them are in Gordon Head.

Admittedly many of the undergraduate students still live with their parents. There is also space for 3400 people to live at the university, still this leaves a large number of people going to UVic every day that could live closer. Something on the order of 15,000 people need to commute to UVic.

The time has come for Saanich to consider allowing dramatically higher density along the 1 kilometer of Mackenzie that runs from Shelbourne to Gordon Head Road. This is an area of about 15 hectares of land and it redeveloped as four to six story condos or apartments, there could be space for 2500 units of housing and a large amount of street level retail. This would be housing for 4000 to 5000 people.

Not everyone living in these units would be connected to UVic, but if 75% of them were, this would reduce the daily traffic to UVic by as much as 20%. Given the rather crowded buses going to the university and the lack of parking, this added density would alleviate some of the problems.

Even though there is an on campus population of close to 3500 people, the location of the these people is not really within walking distance of the local retail options. Also many of the students in residence do not cook their own food and therefore have no need for local shopping.

Given the nature of universities as business incubators, it would make sense for Saanich to rezone some of the land near UVic for office use. There are another 25 or so hectares of land bounded by Gordon Head, Mackenzie Edgeflow and Finerty that offers a good location for offices and more high density housing. I know UVic has the Vancouver Island Technology Park, but it is rather far from UVic and anything else.

Concentrating more people into the areas around the university will increase the demand for local retail services which will improve the options for the people already living in the area. It will improve traffic levels through out the region. It will also being Saanich more property taxes.

Saanich needs to think into the future and about how it will work with what is already there, close to 25,000 people connected to one location for work or school should be the heart of a density cluster.
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