Stalled condo project in Langford makes a comeback
Nearly half a decade after work began, one of Langford’s largest residential buildings is nearing completion along 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. But 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.
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.
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 to 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.
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.
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 | U/C thread, the most relevant thread to the above headline or article:
BaroSep 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm
I like the layout of some of the units. I'm looking for a condo that's 1.5 bedroom but all I can find are 2 full bedroom units. I don't actually need a 2nd bedroom, just a 2nd room for an office/hobby room. I'm fine with a little 6x8' room with no window. Not fine with living way out in the burbs though.
jdsonyOct 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm
I don't know about the inside but the exterior has very poor aesthetics. There is no contrast between any of the materials. I love corrugated metal, I have it on my house, but it is fairly neutral and just gets lost in the beige stucco, dark beige stucco, and darker beige stucco.
“Building Utopia has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my life,” says first-time condo developer Denise Wilson."
When you call something Utopia you would expect it would be difficult. Not many people attempt to create "Utopia" their first time out though.
sebberryOct 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Outdoor, mostly uncovered parking too...
I don't blame the new designer for that as the foundations were all poured back in the days of "The Orono on Jacklin".
Considering Langford gets more rain and snow than Victoria I'm not so sure this is a good thing.
DanielNov 14, 2012 at 10:44 am
anyone knows who financed the "Utopia", any idea?
SparkyNov 14, 2012 at 10:52 am
^ Somehow I missed welcoming you a year and a half ago Daniel when you made your first post. So welcome to vibrantvictoria.
How is your restaurant going?
I know the developers of the Utopia but it would be untoward to ask them who they may have borrowed their construction funds from. Sometimes that's personal, and sometimes the bank will post a proud sign on the site saying "financed by."
You could always search the title (or a number of titles) to see who has a builders mortgage on the property.
Do you mind if I ask you why you are interested in knowing?