Developer has big plans for Tofino’s Gibson Street

“This is a giant project for Tofino.”

A new neighbourhood could be coming to Tofino.

Bruce Haden owns a roughly two-acre property at 565 Campbell Street and presented to Tofino’s municipal council on Thursday to test their appetite for a residential housing project.

The lot is currently zoned for two large single family residences, which Haden dubbed ‘McMansions.’

“I want to be absolutely clear; even though, oddly enough, if you do the math, this is a really desirable financial thing to do, I am never going to do this kind of thing. I have absolutely no interest in it whatsoever and I don’t think it would be good for Tofino,” Haden said of building two large homes on the site.

READ MORE: Bylaw makes room for tiny homes in Tofino

He said he purchased the site roughly ten years ago and has a vision to build a 74-unit townhouse development featuring two, three-storey, buildings with each consisting of one-bedroom units on the ground floor and two-storey, two-bedroom, units above as well as a storage building that would include two apartment units. He added he’s also considering creating another building of studio-style apartments to be used for staff accommodations and said that he planned to talk to local business owners to see if there would be an interest in that type of housing.

He said he is in negotiations with B.C. Housing to have some of the units sold as low-income housing, but wanted to hear council’s thoughts before he moved forward.

“We want to move the stones one at a time. If you’re interested in this, then we would go into much more serious discussions with B.C. Housing. If you’re not interested in it at all, then we wouldn’t. It’s kind of that straight forward,” he said.

READ MORE: Tofino again rejects massive development proposal from Woodsmere

He said his two-acre site includes 500 linear-feet of frontage along Gibson Road, which he believes is in need of an aesthetic upgrade.

“We think that Gibson should become an active street edge. It should actually be a small town open street,” he said. “We do believe that the quality and character of Gibson should be transformed.”

He added that he wants the project to include a “green social heart,” which would include landscaped green areas and communal gathering spaces for residents.

He noted that the project might require some leniency around Tofino’s parking requirements to accommodate the units and greenspaces

“Parking is a real issue in Tofino, I’m not ever going to be easy about that. I just don’t want to have a site that’s just parking,” he said. “The more space you have for cars, the less space you have for greenspace. It’s just that straight forward.”

He said the project would utilize modular construction and would be built in phases, through possible consultation with B.C. Housing.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Tofino receives $500,000 for housing project

Tofino’s council seemed warm to Hayden’s idea and did not raise any ardent red flags out of the gate.

“I don’t see any show stoppers,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.

She questioned what the density of the units might feel like on the site and the reaction residents might have to the proposal, but suggested the site’s location made the proposed density and potential decrease in parking requirements more tolerable.

“There’s a lot of appeal to me about densifying that part of our community, as opposed to compromising maybe some of the rural outlying areas of Tofino,” she said. “To my mind, if you’re going to relax parking standards, the place to do that is really downtown.”

Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers cautioned that if Haden was to submit an official application for the project, district staff would be requesting a consultant to review it as staff would not have time to conduct a thorough review within Haden’s requested timeline.

“This is a giant project for Tofino,” he said. “It’s very complicated from our perspective on a sophistication level, working with BC Housing and all the other pieces that are going to have to move; that’s going to take focused attention.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Tofino voters cite housing as key election issue

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