Skip to main content

Population

17,533

Population density

2,476.7/km2 (6,415/sq mi)

Land area

7.08 km2 (2.73 sq mi)

Territory

Esquimalt Nation

Main industries

Marine and naval defense

When Greg Sherwell decided to expand his coffee shop into a coffee roasting company, he didn’t spend much time debating where to locate it. “I knew I wanted to be in Esquimalt,” he says. “That was a no-brainer.”

Sherwell opened the Esquimalt Roasting Company in the new town square development in 2021, and his business is already one of the community’s most popular gathering spaces. 

The entrepreneur is one of many people drawn to Esquimalt for its potential, its proximity to downtown and, simply, just the way it feels to live there. “I like the energy of the place,” he says. “And when we located here, we thought Esquimalt was probably the most underappreciated municipality in Greater Victoria.” 

The Township of Esquimalt is adjacent to the City of Victoria’s western boundary and partially bordered by the Salish Sea. Home to Maritime Forces Pacific of the Royal Canadian Navy, Esquimalt is one of the region’s most historic of the municipalities, retaining much of its original character, traditions and founding industries. 

The Township boasts a population of around 17,000 people, with a median age of 43, and is known for its high density, revitalized and walkable downtown, beautiful waterfront parks and walkways, family amenities and a diverse business community.

Business Climate

Esquimalt, says Greg, is “a community that appreciates small business — a very grassroots kind of place. It’s why we named our business after the town. We literally wear the name on our sleeve.”

Chris Edley, owner of Edley Imagineering and former president of the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce describes Esquimalt as the kind of place where you go to the coffee shop and bump into a dozen people you know.”

Esquimalt’s dense, walkable downtown core gives the township the feeling of a village, and its business community is tight-knit, known for supporting each other through thick and thin, most recently through the Shop Esquimalt Guide program, a buy-local campaign aimed at increasing support for businesses in the area. The business community is also supported through the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce.

Many businesses are attracted to Esquimalt because operating costs like wages, utilities and commercial space tend to be lower, comparatively. With some of the region’s largest employers located there (Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards, which employs over 1,000 people, and CFB Esquimalt, with almost 7,000 military and civilian employees), the township offers a robust customer base for retailers, restaurants and other small businesses.

Community Assets

Esquimalt’s median household income is $60,424, and almost as many of its residents are homeowners as they are renters. The municipality has one of the highest ratios of jobs to residents, with an active and plentiful workforce, many of which are building careers in both traditional and high-tech industries.

Waterfront community: An abundance of parks, beaches, walkways and a marina make Esquimalt among the prettiest of Greater Victoria’s municipalities, with plenty of opportunities to experience the beauty of shore and sea. The township also boasts several recreational facilities and a golf course.

Commuter-friendly: Esquimalt is a connector between downtown Victoria and the Western communities, with easy access to the E&N Rail Trail and Galloping Goose Trail. Thousands of cyclists and pedestrians travel the trails daily.

Valuing heritage: The township supports retaining its heritage while encouraging beautification, offering a Revitalization Tax Exemption for new construction or exterior improvements in its downtown corridor.

Dense, walkable neighbourhoods: Esquimalt encourages housing diversity, and its neighbourhoods feature an exciting mix of heritage and modern builds. The township supports increased mixed-use designated land to promote a wider variety of housing types and tenures.

Affordable housing: Esquimalt features lower-priced housing prices in comparison with many other areas of Greater Victoria. This applies to both rentals and home ownership, making it attractive to first-time home buyers, young residents and families.

Significant public utility Esquimalt is the site of the McLoughlin Point wastewater treatment plant, which opened in 2021 and serves nine surrounding communities, treating up to 108 megalitres of wastewater per day.

Big business: Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards is the largest private ship repair and conversion operation on Canada’s West Coast. Operating within the federally owned Esquimalt Graving Dock, their work encompasses complex vessel repair and conversion for Canadian and international naval fleets and submarines, as well as for a variety of commercial vessels.

Nearby is CFB Esquimalt, Canada’s Pacific Coast naval base and home port to Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force Pacific Headquarters. Over 7,000 military and civilian personnel work on the Base, which contributes over half a billion dollars annually to the local economy.

Opportunities

Esquimalt is in the midst of a development capacity assessment to analyze its service gaps and identify how new employers will find their fit. As Greg Sherwell of Esquimalt Roasting Company tells us, “The township is craving a broader spectrum of retail opportunities from a consumer perspective.” You can view its most recent Economic Development Strategy here.

Compact vision: Esquimalt’s Official Community Plan outlines its goals to become a Compact Community, where residents have easy access to everything they need. 

Mixed-use Development: As part of its Compact Community strategy, the township wants to add more opportunities for dense residential and commercial mixed-use. 

Multi-modal travel: Esquimalt is looking at developing transportation demand management plans with major employers, encouraging the use of car sharing and increasing density along transit corridors in addition to promoting cycling and walking.

Through these initiatives, the township hopes to house residents closer to work, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need to commute.  

Service and retail: Esquimalt is looking for more service and retail-focused businesses, including those providing items for everyday use.

Hospitality opportunities: The township is interested in adding more hotel and short-term accommodation providers to its community mix, as well as restaurants and pubs to serve visitors and locals alike. Esquimalt has identified significant short-term demand for these services by employees at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt and the Graving Dock, as well as from a densifying community and tourists. 

Growing green: Esquimalt seeks support in piloting innovative greenhouse gas emission reduction approaches.

Attracting industry: The township is interested in innovative proposals that intensify light industrial uses, especially in clean technology, ship repair and fitting.

Urban agriculture: Esquimalt seeks partners in creating and supporting modern urban food production and distribution methods that enhance regional food security. 

The Right Fit for You?

“We chose Esquimalt not only because it’s up and coming, but because it’s a pocket community with people who are very loyal local shoppers,” says Russ Benwell, co-owner of Red Barn Market, an independent grocery store chain with locations throughout Greater Victoria. “We could not be happier with the relationships we’re building with the municipality and with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, who’ve welcomed us with open arms.” 

If you’re looking for a community with character and heart, Esquimalt is a great choice. With its goal of becoming a net-zero leader in the region through the development of a compact community where residents no longer need to commute or travel far to work or shop, they offer a variety of opportunities for businesses in the service, hospitality, innovation, cleantech, marine, tech and retail sectors. 

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

History

Esquimalt’s name is derived from a local First Nations expression Es-whoy-malth, which means the place of gradually shoaling water. The Coast Salish people have inhabited the area now known as Esquimalt from time immemorial. The  lək̓ʷəŋən speaking Esquimalt First Nation peoples now live adjacent to the township.

The Spanish expedition of Manuel Quimper is the first known discovery of Esquimalt by Europeans. Quimper mapped Esquimalt Harbour in 1790, claiming the region for Spain by use of a wooden cross, which had disappeared by the time Captain George Vancouver extensively explored the region two years later. After the resolution of the Nootka Crisis, control of the region went to the British and the British owned HBC.

Esquimalt itself began as an agricultural settlement. The original town site has disappeared inside the boundaries of the Canadian Forces Base. In 1865, Esquimalt replaced Valparaiso, Chile as the Royal Navy Headquarters in the Pacific. Then, in the late 1800s, wealthy businessmen built large homes in Esquimalt along the shoreline, the banks of the Gorge and the rocky hillsides near Old Esquimalt Road.

Its borders and status were defined in the letters patent signed August 15, 1912, and incorporated on September 1, 1912. Esquimalt then became a focal point of activity during the Second World War, with Pacific Command Headquarters set up at Work Point Barracks. 

Today, though it remains true to its military background, the municipality is made up of a diverse array of industries and businesses, describing itself as “a walkable urban centre, with a small-town feel, progressive leadership, and a commitment to lead the way in community sustainability.”