Multi-family and commercial projects drive Greater Victoria building boom
New multi-family developments are sending Victoria’s Campbell Construction into top gear as it anticipates hiring 200 new workers at a time when monthly building permit values move up in the region.
“We are going to be as busy as we have ever been,” Wayne Farey, company general manager, said Tuesday.
Campbell’s job portfolio includes the 10-storey Mondrian condominium, underway at 1090 Johnson St., and the 12-storey Hudson Mews, a rental development in the lot behind the Hudson condominium project at Douglas and Fisgard streets, slated to start the middle of next week, Farey said.
The company is putting up the concrete structure for the Promontory at Bayview Place at Songhees, he said. Work on the 16storey Era condominium for Concert Properties starts in late July. Construction on Bond’s Landing condominiums and townhouses at the Railyards will also be coming up this summer.
This and other work means Campbell will need 200 more workers, on top of its existing 140 employees, Farey said. New apprentices will be added to the payroll. At its busiest, Campbell typically has between 60 and 70 apprentices.
Phil Venoit, representing Vancouver Island for the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building Trades Council, said about 40 potential Vancouver Island multifamily developments are on drafting tables right now. “We haven’t seen this sort of tempo since 2007-2008,” prior to the financial crisis.
Provincial government changes to the harmonized sales tax have encouraged development, he said.
“We are seeing a tremendous amount of work going out for the summer season for school upgrades. This is all refreshing - to see this stuff is coming off the drawing boards and translating into actual jobs.”
Venoit, also speaking for 1,300 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on Vancouver Island, said the combination of construction and shipbuilding work on navy frigates at Victoria Shipyards has put that union’s employment at about 93 per cent.
Other major construction projects in the region include the $1-billion Capital City Centre mixed-use development in Colwood to be built out over 20 years, the $104-million helicopter squadron facility going up at Victoria International Airport, and a $19.7-million utility corridor at CFB Esquimalt.
Building permit values for the capital region climbed by 2.2 per cent in April to $54.1 million from March at $52.9 million, Statistics Canada said in a new report. April of this year was also slightly higher than last year at $53.4 million.
For the province as a whole, the total value of building permits rose by 15.2 per cent to $856.4 million in April from $743.7 million in March.
The federal agency attributed the increase to nonresidential construction plans and multifamily projects.
Nationally, the total value of building intentions dropped by 5.2 per cent in April to $6.5 billion, mainly due to lower construction plans for institutional and multi-family developments in Ontario, Statistics Canada said.
Greg Baynton, Vancouver Island Construction Association president, said that while companies are busy, “It is not reflective of the majority of the industry right now.”
The atmosphere is “highly competitive,” he said. “There is just a general shortage of work right now.”
Baynton does see signs of optimism, saying the industry is trending upwards. Busy companies have diversified the types of construction they do. He anticipates that a request for qualifications to bid on the $50.1-million project to build a new Oak Bay High school will be out within the next 30 days.
Peter White, chairman of the Construction Association’s board, said that although the sector has been a “little quiet,” there is a steady flow of work coming out, especially for multi-family developments.
White, who is with Kinetic Construction, in a joint venture with partner Ellis Don, said the City of Victoria has approved the permit required to start the second phase of the Hillside shopping centre, worth $46 million. That work starts immediately and will take about two years, White said.