Victoria faces a unique problem: How do you meet the needs of a growing population base in a city boxed in by geography, with no elbow room along its municipal borders? Regardless of the environmental arguments against urban sprawl, Victoria simply doesn’t have the option to develop outwards.
To help solve Victoria’s housing crisis, Ryan Goodman of ARYZE Development and Construction says we need to look for growth opportunities within the city’s borders. His company uses a creative approach called urban infill to increase the efficiency of existing neighbourhoods, building higher density structures on vacant or under-utilized lots, using interesting and beautiful architecture to enhance the city.
Luke Mari of Purdey Group, a funding company that works closely with ARYZE, says, “Infill is critical to the sustainable growth envisioned by the City of Victoria Official Community Plan.” He explains that although the idea of densification often evokes a negative emotional response from the community, urban infill actually strengthens quality of life.
He points to neighbourhoods like James Bay, Fairfield and Gonzales, which offer a diverse choice in housing, yet retain their character and desirability. The higher density mix of single family homes, condos, duplexes/triplexes/ fourplexes and townhouses increase the efficiency of those communities in terms of both infrastructure and environmental factors like GHG emissions. By increasing the population density by fifty to one hundred percent, Mari says municipalities and the private sector can provide better parks, neighbourhood amenities and transportation connections to the larger urban areas.
“There is a place for five-storey-plus buildings, but we aren’t going to solve our housing crunch by relocating everybody to towers downtown and mid-rise buildings in town centres,” says Mari. “We have to look at infill density on a holistic, neighbourhood-wide scale to increase the urban health and amenities for the masses.”
Goodman says that the strategy meets a housing need he and his business partners face. “We’re building unique but modest homes that we could buy and raise our families in. We know there are a lot of people like us who want the same thing.
As for the future, Goodman points to row home projects at various stages of planning, development and construction in Fairfield, James Bay and Sidney. “We don’t see a limit to demand for quality, architectural homes in leafy, coastal neighbourhoods with walkable access to urban villages, transit and bike lanes to downtown.”
ARYZE has also partnered with Vancouver-based D’Arcy Jones Architecture to create Pearl Block, a collection of six architectural row houses on Shelbourne Street, using conventional materials and construction in a way that Goodman says reflects his company’s aesthetic and values.
“As a developer, we’ve chosen to make strategic investments in design in order to create homes that will inspire the people who will eventually buy and live in them.” Goodman adds that they strive for homes with aspects people discover and fall in love with over time. “We hope people really love what we build, and they become homes, not just good investments.”