Residential construction suddenly hot in downtown Nanaimo

By Ian Holmes
December 26, 2017 - 9:30pm Updated: December 27, 2017 - 11:50am

161 multi-family housing units are currently under construction in downtown Nanaimo, according to the City.Dirk Heydemann

NANAIMO — After years of heavy residential construction elsewhere in the city, developers are now turning their attention to downtown Nanaimo.

The City reports a sharp turnaround in downtown residential construction, with 161 multiple family units currently being built. In comparison, 203 multi-family units had been constructed in the Harbour City's downtown core over the past 10 years.

Lainya Rowett, the City's manager of current planning and subdivision, said this level of downtown residential activity is “new and exciting” and expects more active construction sites downtown in 2018.

She said they are pleased to see a wide range of housing projects being built in areas all over downtown, roughly bordered by Comox Rd. and Pine St.

“(Which) caters to a more diverse population, whether that's families or students or people who are downsizing.”

Rowett said additional downtown housing will attract business investment in the area.

She said the City will be watching to see how additional people living downtown will impact existing infrastructure, such as transportation.

“Whenever you have new people coming to an area there's always a demand for services or amenities that they're either used to having or want to see,” Rowett said. “It’s going to take a little while I think for the market to adjust to that.”

A jolt of downtown housing options after years of scarce new stock is being met by strong demand.

Nanaimo realtor John Cooper, who oversaw sales and marketing for the 91 Chapel development near the courthouse, said 50 of the 61 units in the six-storey building sold in just three days.

Cooper has regular conversations with Victoria and Vancouver based housing developers, who say they're running out of feasible options in those excessively hot markets.

“The land prices have increased to the point where there's a high level of risk that once the product is built there's a small population of people that can afford to purchase it.”

Cooper said he's optimistic Nanaimo will see sustained downtown residential growth, pointing to relative affordability, lifestyle and access to transportation as important draws.

“As Vancouver and Victoria plateau, Nanaimo will continue to increase as capital exits those markets and can only be realized by relocating to a more affordable market like Nanaimo.”


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