By Anne Marie Moro
Photo credits: Alicia Campbell
“There are always people walking alongside the development with their dogs.
That’s why we designed our units to be pet friendly—even for larger dogs.”
—Harry Skadberg, PCLC President.
You can see it from the highway as you head downtown: a high quality, 60-unit condo development in the Town of View Royal, only steps away from Thetis Lake Park and trail systems, such as the Galloping Goose. The development is aptly named Thetis Lakeside.
With occupancy currently underway, I thought it might be a good time to drop by and find out what the developer Pacific Coast Land Company [PCLC] and its West Shore builders, Harald Skadberg and Ben Gulbrandsen were up to. It’s not often we see a project of this scale developing in View Royal, is it? I was curious to find out more—and I wasn’t disappointed.
The builders told me that they were both born and raised in Norway but have been operating in the West Shore for the last 15 years. Ben Gulbrandsen is an attorney and entrepreneur who runs PCLC’s daily business operations. Harald Skadberg is the President of PCLC with over 35 years of construction management experience. He is active day-to-day on site at Thetis Lakeside. He also partners with many Victoria-based non-profits. Here’s what the duo had to say:
Q: What are the things you like best about this project?
A: “To start with, the Town of View Royal has been great to deal with,” says Skadberg. “I live in View Royal and have built [other homes] in View Royal before, and it’s great to have that kind of support. Mostly, though, we really enjoy having parks and lakes nearby.
This area gets a lot of [recreational] use. It’s such a pleasure to see the steady stream of people carrying kayaks, canoes, and biking. Great energy! And there are always people walking alongside the development with their dogs. That’s why we designed our units to be pet friendly—even for larger dogs.” “And now that it’s warmer,” Gulbrandsen adds, “our labourers enjoy an early start so that they can quit at 3:30 and go jump in the lake! You certainly can’t do that everywhere! The lake is the key to our success. We sold 24 units in the first 6 weeks, because people love living next door to Thetis!”
Q: In what way would you say Thetis Lakeside is different from other projects that you’ve been involved in?
A: “Because Thetis Lake is nearby, we thought our residents would appreciate having kayaks to use at the lake,” says Skadberg.” So, we’ve been giving away kayaks left, right and center, and we’ll continue giving them away monthly. We’ve also made it easy to store such items by locating large personal storage lockers on every floor.”
“Even though we’ve installed electric vehicle charging stations and ample spaces for parking, residents don’t really need a car, if they live here,” says Gulbrandsen. “Grocery stores, fashion and retail outlets and big box stores are just a bus, bike or e-bike ride away.
There are also commercial services available to residents on site: a fitness centre, massage and physio clinic, a hair dresser, a lawyer and financial services—all part of an array of village amenities.”
Q: I understand that CRD has recently approved a new major BC Transit bus route nearby?
A: “That’s right,” says Skadberg. “It’ll pass right in front of our buildings to provide residents with much better access to bus service. Now, it’s walking distance to catch a bus and go directly through to Westshore Town Centre Exchange or the Langford Exchange as well as directly into the Downtown Core.”
Q: What sort of innovation do you see happening on the material supply side of things to keep the cost of housing more affordable and easier to maintain?
A: “Buildings today generally require less maintenance than buildings built 30 years ago, because the materials being used are more durable and more environmentally sustainable.
The lifespan of most buildings is longer—about 50-80 years,” says Gulbrandsen. “So, it makes sense for us [to build this way], especially with rental units, as higher quality does give the building more affordability over its entire lifespan. Better insulation is contributing to reduced electrical costs and building codes are contributing to better building practices. It all adds up! [Many municipalities in] the West Shore encourage building. But that’s not the case in other regions. What’s happening here does help with affordability [for home ownership], because if you don’t build, everything that exists is just going to get that much more expensive over time.”
Q: What direction do you see housing options in general moving in the next decade? What will housing look like? What adaptations will have to be made?
A: “I was at a conference recently that highlighted the population growth that Victoria is experiencing,” Gulbrandsen explains. “It’s at its highest level than at any other time in recent history!” There are many reasons why that is happening, Gulbrandsen goes on to say.
“Lots of people want to live here and the increased demand is encouraging developers to switch from single family homes to higher density land use.”
“It’s the way things are going now,” Skadberg continues. “To protect available raw land, the only alternative is to build up. In general, people prefer more density and less sprawl.
The size of units is changing, too. Although the kitchens in our units are quite large, we know that people are not cooking at home as much as they used to. So future trends may be to opt for smaller kitchens and much larger living spaces.”
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Gulbrandsen provides us with some closing thoughts: “We believe the key to building a cost effective, successful home is identifying and meeting the core needs of individuals. We’ve added standard features that would have been considered options 10 years ago—but we can’t upgrade everything or we price ourselves out of the market! The main thing we’ve tried to focus in on for this development is space. Our units are generally about 15-25% bigger than other new condos coming on the market. With the units being so close to the lake, and the development being pet friendly, we made the strategic decision to offer more square footage as our differentiator. That way, new owners and their pets can co-exist peacefully. If you’re looking to make that next step into your own home, I hope you’ll stop by and have a look.”