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Population

19,693

Population density

1,114/km² (430.12 sq mi)

Land area

17.67 km2 (6.82 sq mi)

Territory

Esquimalt & Songhees Nations

Main industries

Education, light industrial

For Amy Ouwehand, the charm of living in Colwood is its small town feel and big city exposure. The Office Manager for coworking space Coastal Offices says it’s the town’s connection to community and easy access to urban amenities that fuelled her desire to live in this West Shore municipality.

“It’s an intersection of sorts,” she says, “the perfect transition between Langford and communities closer to downtown Victoria.”

And, she says, while its proximity to the ocean and forests offers the kind of balanced, relaxed lifestyle she wants, it’s also a community that welcomes growth and encourages entrepreneurship.

“I meet a lot of entrepreneurs at our coworking space, and many are on their second or third career,” she notes. “They’re a younger demographic, they’re raising families and they’re excited to be business owners here.”

Colwood is a friendly seaside community with unique connections to nature, iconic historic sites and incredible potential. It is particularly renowned for its beautiful seven-kilometre oceanfront Esquimalt Lagoon, beloved by visitors and tourists alike.

The city is home to almost 20,000 people, and its population is expected to more than double over the next two decades. As a newer community (incorporated since 1985), it attracts families and young professionals from all over Canada and Vancouver Island.

Business Climate

The community is home to a younger demographic (median age 41), with an average household income of $85,668, and a discretionary income considered to be over average compared to the rest of B.C. 

Easy access: Colwood’s location makes for easy commutes to other South Island municipalities, with downtown Victoria just 18 minutes away and major transportation hubs (airport, ferry) connecting the Island to Vancouver and Seattle up to a half hour drive away. 

“We’re not far from major shopping areas, but also nice and close to nature,” says Reid Hansen, Owner/Operator of Red Barn Latoria. “And that’s what I’ve always liked about living out here. It’s noticeably busier nowadays, but it’s still like a small town. There’s a lot of residential growth, but we still know our customers and it feels like a community.”

Significant development: There are several new residential and commercial developments underway, which will inject the community with thousands of new homes as well as retail, hospitality, educational and retail services.

Talent pool: Colwood has access to a talent pool developed through one of the highest-ranked school systems in Canada. Local post-secondary institutions excel in innovation and technology-related teaching and research and are helping graduates integrate with local business through co-ops, incubators, accelerators, and business centres.

The broader region also benefits from the spillover effect of nearby tech hubs like Vancouver and Seattle.

High approval ranking: Satisfaction with Colwood as a place to do business is high, at 92%. Colwood’s business costs are lower than Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and Silicon Valley. Operating costs like wages, utilities and commercial are all lower comparatively.

Abundant recreation: Colwood is home to numerous parks, trails and sports and recreational facilities, making it ideal for those seeking an active lifestyle.

Net Zero goals: In its Community Plan Colwood lists among its goals its desire to become carbon neutral, energy positive and water smart.

Community Assets

Education: Colwood is home to Royal Roads University (RRU), a post-secondary educational institution named as one of the most beautiful university campuses in the world.  Over 4,000 students graduate each year from the accredited, publicly funded applied research university, which welcomes students from around the world as well as across Canada. 

Historic beauty: RRU is also the site of Hatley Park, a large estate once owned by coal magnet James Dunsmuir, as well as the Fort Rodd Hill Canadian National Historic site and Fisgard Lighthouse. 

Rapid densification: 135 acres of oceanfront land at Royal Beach, once the site of a rock and gravel quarry, are being developed for residential and commercial use. The site, now called Royal Bay, was purchased by Seacliff Properties in 2017, and they, along with Reliance Properties, recently announced a $1.2-billion masterplan plan for thousands of homes to be built over the next decade.

New home of RBCM: Construction is soon to begin on a multi-million dollar project to house the Royal BC Museum’s archives, collections and research departments, dedicated research labs and learning spaces, and improve access to the museum’s vast collections. Once open (in 2025), it will also offer unique learning programs.

“There’s so much to love about working and living in this community,” notes Brad Kiss, owner of the Royal Bay Bakery. “It’s been wonderful for everything it has to offer: the ocean, hiking trails, good people, family oriented. Royal Bay is just ripe for growth, with all sorts of opportunities. And I love the focus here on locally owned small businesses, more so than on big box stores.”

Opportunities

There are currently over 600 businesses in Colwood, including home based businesses. It is anticipated that up to approximately 204,000 square feet of retail floor space could be added to the City of Colwood by 2038.

The City’s 2018 Official Community Plan lays out a shared vision for Colwood as an exceptional seaside community where people live in family-friendly neighbourhoods that are connected to nature and to vibrant public spaces by a range of realistic transportation choices. 

Those interested in helping it fulfill its community growth vision are encouraged to bring their projects to City Hall.

Open to ideas: The City is actively encouraging proposals from new employers and investors. The city offers a hands-on, collaborative approach to supporting business growth. Colwood is particularly interested in attracting businesses from the following sectors: construction, ICT, finance and professional, scientific and technical services.

Development opportunities: There are several commercial development opportunities available in Colwood, including Allandale District, the Island Highway Corridor and Royal Bay, set up to provide a range of light industrial, commercial, and residential uses.

Tech Hub: The emergence of creative industries focusing on digital technologies is seen as the next large contributor to economic growth in a community and the city of Colwood has ensured it has the broadband infrastructure to attract tech employers.   

Clean energy: Colwood welcomes businesses who can help the municipality carry out its vision as a carbon neutral, energy positive, water smart community, prepared to adapt to a changing world.

Mobilizing marine transit hub: In 2021 the Capital Regional District (CRD) Board resolved to advocate for a full West Shore Ferry feasibility study on the viability of a passenger ferry from Royal Bay in Colwood to Ship Point in downtown Victoria. There is a strong belief that a passenger ferry has great potential to reduce traffic congestion and provide an alternative to the single occupancy vehicle.

The Right Fit for You?

Colwood is an active community looking for businesses that support its residential and commercial needs. “I think we’re going to see more young professionals move here. The municipality offers many resources and there’s a lot of civic pride,” says Amy Ouwehand. 

If you’re looking for fast-paced growth in a city known for its support of entrepreneurs, while also offering family-friendly facilities and oceanfront access, welcome to your new home.

Interested in learning more? Contact the team at South Island Prosperity Partnership.

History

One of the youngest municipalities in Greater Victoria, the City of Colwood was incorporated in 1985. 

It sits on the ancestral lands of Teechamista and the Lekwungen-speaking people of the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees) ancestors and families. In 1910, when the British Columbia government created reserves, their ancestors were relocated from the Victoria Inner Harbour to Esquimalt, where their Nations remain today.

The area’s popular beachfront park, known as Esquimalt Lagoon, was once an anchorage for Spanish explorers and later used as a firing range for the Royal Navy during the 1880s.  The Lagoon was also the site of farms, a tannery and a sawmill in the 19th century. The municipality itself was originally one of four farms established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the mid 1800s to supply Fort Victoria.

Colwood’s iconic Fisgard Lighthouse was constructed in 1860 to guide vessels through the entrance of Esquimalt harbour. It was the first lighthouse built on Canada’s west coast, and, now automated, continues today.  Nearby Fort Rodd Hill, a former coast artillery fort built in the 1890s and designed to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base, is now a publicly accessible heritage site.

The Colwood Dairy and Cheese House, the Island’s first stone dairy, was constructed in 1852 and is considered to be the oldest building on the West Shore, as well as one of the six oldest buildings in B.C.

Producer’s Pit (now known as Royal Bay) opened in the early 1900s as one of the area’s largest industrial sites and major employers, extracting sand and gravel to meet local and American needs.

Colwood almost became the seat of the Crown of the Commonwealth realm in 1940, when, after the start of World War II, the government planned to relocate King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and their children, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, to Hatley Castle for protection. They instead decided to stay in London and Windsor, near the European front.