Photo Credit: Alberni Valley News / Susan Quinn

First Lumber, Now Houses

It's not the logging company's 1st housing project, but it's the biggest

Surrey company wants to build another 2,800 houses in one of VanIsle’s hottest real estate markets

The San Group has already made a big impact on Port Alberni’s forest sector, with a new mill and others investments totalling more than $100 million. Now the Surrey-based lumber company is proposing a billion-dollar residential development that would add a whopping 25 percent more housing in the city.

“This is a very major investment San Group is doing, and we are not afraid of the big money because we believe in the community,” Kamal Sanghera, San Group’s Chief Executive Officer, told CHEK News.

It’s not the San Group’s first housing project, but it’s the biggest by far. The company has invested in three residential developments in the Lower Mainland.

Dubbed Pacific Mayfair Estates, the San Group is saying all the right things in hopes of getting the green light for its Port Alberni venture. The plan includes building a senior’s facility, affordable rental housing, outlets for charging electric vehicles, as well as rehabilitating a coho salmon stream and two large ponds for wildlife habitat.

According to Sanghera, half of the 2,800 homes would be a mix of high-end single-family houses, condos and townhouses. The other half would be rental condos and apartments buildings up to 10 storeys. The project is ­estimated to cost $900 million to $1.1 billion and would be ­constructed in three phases over the next five to eight years.

Sounds great, but the company will have to move carefully.

The company is asking the city to change the property’s residential zoning to higher density.

They also want to build on a 73-acre parcel between Burde Street and West Coast General Hospital that’s covered in forest and is home to two popular walking paths: the Beaver Pond Trail and the Long Train Trail.

Local nature lovers may object to these plans. Following their announcement, some online chatter questioned the San Group’s track record on environmental protection.

In a story for the Alberni Valley News, retired forester and outdoor tour guide Sandy McCruer said the develeopemnt would damage beaver ponds and habitat for the red listed painted turtle.

“The impact on the ponds will be immediate. I think this is far too aggressive,” he said. “I’d like to see the entire property saved.”

If the council approves the rezoning, the San Group hopes to break ground in early 2022.

Port Alberni mayor Sharie Minions is excited about it. She told CHEK News that it’s positive to see such interest in the city’s future.”It’s incredibly exciting for the community to be seeing this level of investment in our community and sustained investment,”  Minions said.

 Tseshaht First Nation’s chief councillor Ken Watts said he’s looking forward to the development but expects the San Group to respect waterways and territories.