Dean Fortin knows the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood well.
The executive director of Pacifica Housing held that same role with the area’s community association before joining Victoria city council as a councillor then as mayor. He’s familiar with the challenges residents face and was enthusiastic about the announcement Friday of the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the City and the Greater Victoria School District to bring new subsidized housing to the former Burnside elementary site.
“Pacifica is excited to be enhancing the Burnside Gorge community with affordable market housing for families, child care facilities and renewed public space,” he said in a release. “We listened to what the residents wanted in the local area plan process and are pleased to deliver on their aspirations for their neighbourhood.”
The plans, which must still go through the public process and be approved by city council, call for 88 units of two- and three-bedroom suites, as well as new child care spaces and programming space for the neighbourhood.
A decision approved by the SD61 in 2016 will see seismic upgrades and modernization completed on the school, which will be renamed the Burnside Education Centre. It will eventually be home to students and staff from The Link at S.J. Willis Alternative School.
The City would lease land north of the school to housing provider Pacifica for 60 years, with nominal rates initially. Pacifica must still secure funding to build the structure.
Mayor Lisa Helps called the three-way collaboration “unprecedented” and said it would provide such benefits as “much needed family housing and childcare spaces, as well as community development opportunities.”
As well as falling in line with the City’s housing strategy through 2025, she said, the proposal “is a great first step toward creating a walkable urban village at the Cecelia and Jutland roads intersection, as envisioned in the neighbourhood plan.”
The site is in the same block as the Burnside-Gorge Community Centre and is within walking distance of Cecelia Ravine Park and the Galloping Goose Trail.
SD61 board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga likes the synergies the plan creates by integrating a refurbished Burnside school.
“The Board of Education strongly believes our schools strengthen communities, and having the opportunity to create a neighbourhood hub with amenities for families, young children and learners is the first step to building a healthy, sustainable and prosperous community,” she said.