Stalled condo project in Langford makes a comeback

Utopia from the corner of Jacklin Road and Orono Avenue. Shown here is the project under construction in April of this year. © Skyscraper Source Media.

Nearly half a decade after construction began, one of Langford’s largest residential buildings is finally nearing completion on Jacklin Road at Orono Avenue.

Formerly known as Orono, the four storey, tri-wing 90-unit condo with groundfloor retail today boasts the much more blissful name of Utopia although the transition from what was essentially a shell of a building in 2008 to one of the west shore’s most unique developments was not without it’s fair share of tribulation.

“Building Utopia has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my life,” says first-time condo developer Denise Wilson.

The view of Utopia from within the interior courtyard. The south wing (left) and west wing (centre) overlook the surface parking lot. © Skyscraper Source Media.

In late 2008 as global financial markets began to unravel, a multitude of proposals throughout the south Island were canceled well into their run through the municipal process and several, like Orono, stalled after construction had already begun.

“Orono had over 40 presales, we had just poured the groundfloor concrete and columns were going up, and all of a sudden the financing company told us they would be pulling out of the project,” Wilson said of the sudden work stoppage.

As the economy re-energized by 2010 and the prospects of restarting construction resurfaced, Wilson, with son Jeff at her side, found herself at the reigns of the sizable condo development after the initial team of partners sold her their interest following the crippling loss of financial backing.  It wasn’t long before the investor-turned-developer embarked on what would become a lengthy quest to re-secure financing and eventually make another go at the $20-million project.

One year later financing was locked in, tenders went out and Orono was reborn under the leadership of a woman in a male-dominated industry.

A view of the surface parking lot from Utopia's fourth floor on the south wing. © Skyscraper Source Media.

To say Wilson had a steep learning curve would be an understatement. On an average day nearly 100 workers can be seen throughout the construction site. Carpenters, painters, cleaners and landscapers, among countless other tradesmen and women, vie for the attention of the rookie developer who admits that she places great value in her feminine approach to managing the project.

“I have a different way of doing things,” she says. “I want my units to look a certain way and have certain features because I know how women react to a home when they see it. My competition asks me, ‘Denise, why are you putting this or that in, it’s just extra cost,’ but I know what I would like in a condo unit and I want to cater to my buyer’s wants and desires.”

The difference between Utopia and comparable projects throughout the region is immediately evident in the many showsuites (compared to the industry standard of a single showsuite) readied for potential buyers to scrutinize. Standard features include over 20 colour and kitchen cabinet combinations; granite countertops; heated floors in bathrooms with programmable timers; a heatpump (with air conditioning), a hot water tank, a washer and dryer in every unit; and kitchens feature soft-close technology throughout. Plenty of additional perks such as dropped ceilings in the kitchens, custom blinds and full-size patios distance the competition even further. And then there are the small details that Wilson maintains some men may not notice, but woman certainly will.

“You’re selling to woman,” she says with a twinkle in her eye as she points out even more unique aspects of Utopia. “And my competition doesn’t seem to think that some of these features are a worthwhile expense, but having bought and sold real-estate for a number of years I know what woman are looking for and I know how men react to their partner’s desires.”

Amenities aside, Utopia is situated at the nexus of Langford’s commercial districts of Goldstream Avenue and Westshore Town Centre. Transit connectivity is in the form of the Langford Trolley along Jacklin Road and around the corner on Station Avenue BC Transit’s Western Exchange connects riders to downtown Victoria and points further west. A future commuter rail station is planned for Western Exchange and a light rail connection may one day be built within walking distance.

View south along Jacklin Road from the fourth floor of Utopia. © Skyscraper Source Media.

View south along Jacklin Road from the fourth floor of Utopia's west wing. © Skyscraper Source Media.

Unit prices start at $239,900 for a 1 bedroom plus den at just under 700 sq. ft., and starting in the mid-$300’s two bedroom plus den units at just under 1,000 sq. ft. are available. Nine units feature raised ceilings and a mezzanine level.

Designed by Welsley Architecture of Victoria, the “C” shaped woodframe building is situated adjacent to industrial properties to the south and east. To minimize impact on residents, units face west onto Jacklin Road and north onto Orono Avenue. Courtyard-facing units look out to the east and north along the west and south wings, respectively. There are no units facing south along the north and south wings.

The commercial component is comprised of 10,400 sq. ft.. Wilson confirms a fitness facility with a tanning salon is interested in a large portion of space along Orono Avenue, and a locally owned coffee shop is in discussions to lease a portion of frontage along Jacklin Road.

Project completion is expected by October of this year. Marketing has yet to officially begin although initial interest has resulted in multiple pending offers. Unlike many condo projects in the region, Utopia did not require pre-sales to secure financing and will be launching a new website and marketing campaign in the coming weeks. VV

To stay up to date on the Utopia project and to see the latest construction photos as posted by VibrantVictoria members, refer to our discussion thread here. View the official Utopia website here. Be sure to follow VibrantVictoria on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest headlines and major issues discussed on the forum, and connect with our Victoria Condos Facebook page to stay ahead of the curve on local condo projects throughout the region. And liking VibrantVictoria’s Facebook page is a great way to stay up-to-date via Facebook on local stories and issues as discussed on VibrantVictoria.

© Copyright 2012 by Skyscraper Source Media. All rights reserved.



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Responses to this Headline or Article

The five most recent replies to VibrantVictoria.ca's discussion forum's [Langford] Utopia condo (formerly "The Orono") | 4-storeys | Built - completed in 2012 thread, the most relevant thread to the above headline or article:

phx

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Presumably any buyers can backout of the deal.

VicHockeyFan

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Quote: Presumably any buyers can backout of the deal.


I think they've already taken possession. No backing out now.

dasmo

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Condos in Langford were speculative IMO.... Sorry all but I grew up there. Condos are a towny thing where you walk.

Baro

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Yeah I can't imagine buying a condo in langford, it's like the worst of both worlds.

phx

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Quote: I think they've already taken possession. No backing out now.


Uh oh. I didn't realized it was finished.

Perhaps it will be a repeat of the Fairfield Rise.

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