City of Colwood
The combination of majestic and historic natural beauty mixed in with an outstanding quality of life is an accurate way to describe the beautiful City of Colwood, a community of 17,000 residents located just down the road from the B.C. capital of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It’s a progressive growing community that enjoys a storied background, with a marvelous connection to nature and access to urban amenities.
The seaside community on the Pacific Ocean provides a wonderfully picturesque landscape of old growth forests and magnificent water views spread across 5km of beautiful, natural and accessible beachfront. The city is also home to three acclaimed national historic sites, including Hatley Castle, Fort Rodd Hill, and Fisgard Lighthouse, one of few lighthouses granted heritage designation.
The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton about the impressive transformation that is still very much in progress. As a lifelong resident of B.C., and someone who started kindergarten in Colwood, Hamilton is infinitely qualified to reflect upon just how the community has evolved. What were once small single-lane roads have grown to become large four-lane highways heading to such destinations as Victoria and beyond.
Colwood was incorporated as a city in 1985 in what would best be described as a reverse amalgamation. The area had been referred to as the Western Communities, which included what are now Highlands, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin and Sooke. Those areas are now disengaged from the Western Communities electoral area into the various municipalities.
“We move a long way away from industry in Colwood,” says Mayor Hamilton. “It’s transitioned prominently into a residential location with supporting businesses such as grocery stores.”
The mayor and city councillors have the newest official community plan set out, which provides a vision and guidelines for the next five to 10 years based on what is happening now and what is expected to develop within the community during that time.
A number of large residential development properties are currently being worked on from the waterfront up to the mountains as well as longer-term projects that are destined for five, 10 and 15-year buildouts.
Following our discussion Mayor Hamilton was heading out later that morning for a ground-breaking ceremony for a Co-op housing facility with 12 townhouse units and a block building that will house 82 units. The new housing will greatly benefit single parents, seniors and adults with disabilities who live on median incomes.
“We’re going from a single level to a four-story ranging from studio-style apartments into three-bedroom family units. It’s closely associated to transportation and our centres for shopping,” she says.
The neighbouring community of Langford has made the conscious decision to move very heavily into the larger box-store shopping, which allows Colwood to focus more on the residential aspect. It’s a complementary setup and equates to no more than a 10-minute drive to those retail outlets.
Despite the fact there are more than 500 businesses registered within Colwood, Mayor Hamilton would like to see that base grow in size.
“A number of those jobs are home-based but we do have retail and several big developments that are now taking place,” she says.
As a key component of its infrastructure build, Colwood has traditionally been recognized for its excellent sustainability practices and green initiatives. The city has been working with the federal government on a long-term grant program that involves raising local residents’ awareness of clean energy options. Plans are in place to expand it into a wider geographic area.
Recreation and entertainment
There is no shortage of attractions and recreational facilities available to both residents and tourists alike. West Shore Parks and Recreation offers an outstanding variety of recreation and leisure opportunities, including a swimming pool, exercise facilities, two ice rinks, a curling rink, a par-3 golf course, soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, outdoor tennis, volleyball, lawn bowling, lacrosse, a BMX track and a velodrome. There is also a library and other amenities on the property. The facility is home to various conferences, trade shows, events and the two-day Rock the Shores summer music festival.
Colwood has been hosting Beach Food Fridays and Saturdays through the summer for the past two years. Young families love it, because it’s a way to ‘eat out’ and let the kids enjoy the fun. There is a wide assortment of available options at the various food trucks and live bands are often playing on the beachfront. The annual Eats & Beats at the Beach event takes place each July about midway along Esquimalt Lagoon on Ocean Boulevard, which is closed to vehicle traffic.
Another popular attraction is the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, which runs all the way through the entire region and into Victoria.
“It’s attractive for cycling and walking or running and is well used by all the communities,” says Mayor Hamilton.
The city has easy access many nearby attractions, including the waterfront at Esquimalt Lagoon which includes a National Migratory Bird Sanctuary, the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, the Q Centre, Royal Colwood Golf Club, Olympic View Golf Club and the library facilities for the Western Communities. Colwood also had the honour of hosting the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, which helped draw a number of tourists into the city for that major sporting event.
Hatley Castle is a famous National Historic Landmark within Colwood that was completed in 1908. It is now the administrative centre of Royal Roads University. In addition to the university, Colwood currently has two high schools, two junior high schools and a series of elementary schools.
“Usage of the Royal Roads property is almost constant. It was used as a location for X-Men and for scenes in the Harry Potter movies. A number of movies have been shot in and around the Royal Roads property. Volvo did a commercial on the lagoon,” notes Hamilton.
Looking to the future
There is an expectation from Mayor Hamilton, council and city staff that Colwood will continue to enjoy expansion over the next few years. At the centre of that optimism is an expansive project called Colwood Corners. Spanning about 12.5 acres the project is anticipated to be a very high-profile mixed-use development of multi-family residential and retail.
“I’m hoping that our Colwood Corners project is the one that sets the stage. The other ones are longer in their design and build line. But if this one can get under way and people see the success of that mixed-use of residential, commercial and retail all in a condensed area it’s going to help pick up the other ones that are in different locations.
Mayor Hamilton also envisions the tech sector expanding in the coming years. With each passing day it becomes easier for people to discard the office space and instead connect to others through digital networking. Colwood already has community-based business centres that allow individuals to rent a desk. You just come in and connect.
Tourists visit to see the many wonderful attractions. Permanent residents have settled in Colwood due to its strong sense of community, quality of life and enormous civic pride.