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‘There are no do-overs’: No extra storeys for Pacific House condominium

Shannon Moneo
‘There are no do-overs’: No extra storeys for Pacific House condominium
COURTESY TOWNSHIP OF ESQUIMALT — Pacific House, with the addition of two more storeys.

Adding two more storeys to the in-progress nine-storey Pacific House condominium being built in Esquimalt, B.C. will be a no-go.

West Vancouver-based Lexi Development Group wanted the extra two floors with 16 more units and parking spots because of financial pressures attributable to rapidly-escalating construction costs and high interest rates. Project expenses have jumped over 50 per cent since 2020 when the condo was approved.

But the rare request was shot down in late February, via a tie vote at Esquimalt council.

Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison was one of three councillors to vote against what would have been a rezoning change related to boosted density.

“A developer’s financial circumstances are not permitted as a reason for rezoning,” Morrison says.

Calling the request “highly unusual,” Morrison added, “It would be inappropriate to ignore closure on a zoning and do it again.”

The developer of this Esquimalt condo wanted to add two more floors to the nine above-grade levels but the request was turned down by Esquimalt politicians.
SHANNON MONEO — The developer of this Esquimalt condo wanted to add two more floors to the nine above-grade levels but the request was turned down by Esquimalt politicians.

The zoning for Pacific House was done about five years ago.

“We had closure on this,” Morrison says. “There are no do-overs.”

But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins sees it differently. She voted in favour of two more floors. “It would be a quick win all the way around,” she says.

Desjardins’ reasoning is related to the housing shortage and the, not just local, but national, need for more homes. Pacific House is in the middle of construction and the request to add 16 units of housing, which would be ready in months, not years, makes sense to the mayor.

 

Developer working as fast as possible towards completion

Work on the 66-unit concrete tower is at the seventh level. The building was designed with one, two and three-bedroom condos; ground level will feature commercial space while the remaining eight floors will feature residential units.

Desjardins doesn’t think the addition of two more storeys is a major change. The developer worked with a structural engineer and felt it could be done, she says. Lexi believes additional bracing to the building and lightening the load of the two new top floors would address concerns.

As for whether Pacific House will be left unfinished, due to the rejection of its request, Desjardins says she hasn’t got a definitive answer.

But she is aware of how cost escalations have challenged developers and projects. Even work on an Esquimalt municipal project has been altered due to a 50 per cent cost increase.

Morrison says if Lexi can’t reach the finish line, a developer with more funding could buy Pacific House and complete it.

For Morrison, questions remain.

“Is it logistically possible? Is it architecturally possible?”

Farzin Yadegari is the registered architect for Lexi and his firm designed Pacific House. He says the condo will be finished.

“The developer is going as fast as possible to complete it as soon as possible,” he says.

He acknowledges significant structural and engineering changes would be required to add two storeys, some of them attributable to lateral forces caused by earthquakes.

He estimates the extra consultants’ and engineering costs related to adding two more storeys would cost roughly 50 per cent more than if they were in the original plan. There would be little profit made on the 16 added housing units, Yadegari guesses.

Desjardins points out this project came forward in several iterations and at one point, was approved for 12 storeys, then cut to six.

As well, Esquimalt’s Design Review Committee stated the building would look better with the two added storeys, Desjardins says.

Adding to Pacific House’s merit is that it’s situated on transit and cycling corridors, at a commercial node and near an attractive oceanfront walkway.

“It has all the amenities required to live locally,” Desjardins says.

Height isn’t a major concern, she says, but the massing of buildings is. Pacific House is not part of an agglomeration of highrises.

 

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