The fact that water treatment is the centerpiece of the public area is an intentional expression of values and personality for Dockside Green, Van Belleghem says. "My observations of larger-scale community developments is they're often too sterile," the developer explains. "They don't focus enough on place, nature, and variety of design."
"Our children are losing their connection to nature because we haven't done a good enough job of introducing nature to urban settings," he continues. "So for us, nature is as important as architecture." In addition to the creek and greenway, Dockside's greenery will include rooftop gardens, 1,800 planted trees, and reintroduction of a natural harborside beach that had been removed during industrial times.
A Viable Model
This ambitious development seems to be faring well financially — at least as of late September 2008 — despite the collapse of a surging housing market. Not only is occupancy nearly full for the first phase, but preoccupancy of the second two towers is just under 90 percent.
"It has shocked people how well the financial side has been going," Van Belleghem reports, adding that he's not among those surprised by the success. Compared to their suburban counterparts, he asserts, "Projects like Dockside are best-positioned to succeed. There's a flight to value. People are looking at issues like climate and energy."
The City of Victoria acted as a partner in the development process. The various private and public entities involved had to integrate different methods and timetables for doing business, which sometimes proved challenging, especially when numerous changes to planning, zoning, and approved infrastructural or mechanical choices had to be secured.
"Some of the technology we're using on site, like biomass — they're proven technologies, but in this region, they're not common," Van Belleghem says. "Working with government to change policies, it was very time-consuming and intensive."
But, says Fawkes of the City, "Being the owner of the property, they were committed to making it work. Sometimes approval took longer because we were, say, doing something the plumbing code wouldn't allow. It made for some rewriting, but it worked out."
And, he adds, Dockside Green has helped transform the Victoria market. "When the city put out their RFP for the triple bottom line, it wasn't a common topic of discussion," the architect says. "Now it is, and that's where we want to go, with developments like Dockside being common."
"Dockside has proven you can take a typical development and [create] a LEED Platinum development. It shows everybody else can do that, too. We're seeing that in other developments in the city. Going for LEED Gold is almost a requirement now."
Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, Architectural Record, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times.
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