Skip to main content

Population

117,735

Population density

103.59 square km (40.00 sq mi)

Land area

103.78 km2 (40.07 sq mi)

Territory

Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tsawout, & Tseycum Nations

Main industries

Education, tech, manufacturing

The District of Saanich is the largest municipality in Greater Victoria. It presents a rare blend of an integrated rural and urban environment within a dense metropolitan region; a place where entrepreneurs, artists, community-builders, farmers and families call home.

Peter Kuran, President & CEO of UVic Properties (which manages Vancouver Island Technology Park), says it’s that rare blend of environments that make it so desirable.

“I work with potential tenants all the time,” he notes, “and when considering Saanich, they talk to me about geography and how they love that we are centrally located, that there are similar tech businesses nearby, and that they can access both manufacturing and office space.”  

Saanich has been recognized as being one of the most immigrant-friendly cities in Canada. It’s also known as an environmentally-progressive municipality, with 168 parks and greenspaces, the first incentive program for e-bikes in BC, an assertive Climate Action Plan, an expedited Active Transportation program, and nearly 400 farms within district boundaries.

The University of Victoria, its tech-park (Vancouver Island Technology Park) along with both campuses of Camosun College (the province’s second largest college), are situated within Saanich, securing its place as one of the most educated jurisdictions in Canada.

Business Climate

The average household income in Saanich is $77,282 and the median age 44.7. It is one of the most diverse populations within Greater Victoria with a high labour force participation rate.

It’s not only business owners that like working and living in Saanich,” says Peter Kuran. “Employees like how quickly they can get from home to office, from office to downtown, or to ferries or the airport. The younger demographic really like being close to the vibrancy of downtown with easy access to rural recreation. And Saanich is a progressive municipality interested in ideas and innovation.”

Thriving Industry: A significant portion of the District’s commercial land base is given over to industrial land. Next to the City of Victoria, Saanich boasts the second largest amount of industrial square footage in the region. Industrial areas include the Royal Oak Industrial Area (which includes the Vancouver Island Technology Park) and Douglas Street West Industrial Area, and industrial-type uses on a number of properties in Saanich, including the Hartland Landfill, operated by the Capital Regional District.

Focused development The district aims to concentrate new development in ‘Centres’ and ‘Villages’ to be better able to meet the objective of becoming a sustainable community, while accommodating new residents and businesses. Saanich wants to reduce the need for, and cost of, further extending public infrastructure, and make walking, cycling, and transit more viable.

Major Shopping Centres There’s no shortage of retail opportunities in Saanich. Major shopping areas include Uptown (Douglas Street North Corridor), University Heights (near the University of Victoria, which has become a bustling subculture of students, academics and innovators), the more sedate community shopping centres of Royal Oak and Broadmead, Tillicum-Burnside, serving Saanich’s younger population, and Hillside Centre, a large mall known for its everyday shopping convenience.

Resilient Food and Agriculture System Saanich has a long history of farming and retains a significant amount of agriculture and arable land. 

Growing Indigenous economy In 2018 the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council was created as a representation of the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations to the Government. Its creation not only brought the Tsartlip, Tseycum, and Tsawout Nations together, it also established a legal governing body to promote sustainable and equitable development of resources within W̱SÁNEĆ Territory.

Community Assets

Approximately half of Saanich is urban and half rural/agricultural – a dual role that has influenced its character and development. Its urban assets make it an integral part of the regional economy, supporting and influencing surrounding communities.

Regional Tech Hub: The high-tech sector is the largest driver of Greater Victoria’s economy by revenues. Several of the larger firms are located within the Vancouver Island Technology Park, with 191,000 square feet of rentable area in Phase I operated by the University of Victoria. VITP is entering an exciting new growth phase that will expand physical capacity by up to 250,0000 square feet – this includes high-demand wet-lab space needed by the growing bio-tech and pharmaceutical sectors, along with specialized electrical and venting systems, and the latest data transfer technology.

Flexible designs allow for the changing requirements of existing tenants, as well as the needs of new start-up companies.

Future growth plans include space for high-demand wet-lab space needed by the growing bio-tech and pharmaceutical sectors, along with specialized electrical and venting systems, and the latest data transfer technology. Flexible designs allow for the changing requirements of existing tenants, as well as the needs of new start-up companies.

University of Victoria: UVic is one of Canada’s top-rated comprehensive universities (ranked 177th in the world) and a leading research-intensive post-secondary institution. Over 22,000 attend the university in any given year. It has filed over 580 patents, supported almost 170 startup companies and has an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion.

The University of Victoria has been ranked #1 among Canadian comprehensive universities for preparing career-ready students (2019 Times Higher Education Global University Employability Ranking) and is consistently the top university in North America for international research collaboration (Leiden, 2011-19).

Camosun College: Also recognized as a leading-edge educational facility, Camosun College has two campuses, Lansdowne and Interurban, with an annual enrollment of about 20,000 students across 160+ programs. They provide contract training opportunities for local business, research, innovation and prototyping services for industry, and well-trained co-op students for employers. With over 1,100 employees and an annual budget of $132 million, Camosun College is one of Saanich’s top employers and generates close to $1 billion in economic impact every year.

Opportunities

In 2020, Saanich won the Open for Business Large Community Award from Small Business BC in recognition of their work creating a welcoming environment for small businesses.

The District embraces both its rural and built environments, encouraging new employers and developments that fit its vision for supporting strong and vibrant neighbourhoods with their own character and identity, connected and engaged with each other and outlying municipalities. 

A thoughtful built environment: The district’s priority is to limit urban sprawl. It encourages development that retains Saanich’s liveability, increases access to affordable housing, works with the topography and protects the natural environment, and enhances a ‘Sense of Place.’ 

Douglas-Uptown invigoration: There are plans to reinvigorate the Douglas-Uptown Corridor, inviting numerous opportunities for new commerce, businesses, and increased density in a key commercial area of the region. It’s been described as an ‘ambitious plan and future envisioning that addresses climate change, affordability and the quality of life.’ 

In addition, the 4th phase of the Uptown Development is currently in planning, which could bring a mixed use residential and commercial building to the area.

Large mixed use development: At University Heights proposals are underway for a reimagining of the land, with an application in front of council for a mixed use development that will include rental units, retail and restaurants, a daycare centre, cycling facilities, a public plaza, community space and electric-vehicle charging stations.

Advocating for a film studio: Saanich, along with Camosun College, is proposing an educational film studio be built on 5 acres of campus land. Development plans call for three new sound stages, a production facility and an educational facility for a studio that will bring hundreds of jobs to the district

Implementing Saanich’s Climate Action Plan: The district’s Plan aims to reduce energy consumption through energy efficiencies and the development of clean energy alternatives. Its carbon-neutral reserve fund is available for new Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction initiatives within Saanich.

Improved mobility: Saanich believes in a balanced, convenient, accessible, and efficient mobility network. One of the issues it’s addressing is the continued improvement of bicycle, walking, and transit amenities within and between lower density neighbourhoods and retail centres and major employment nodes. 

Supporting urban farming: Saanich works to provide its residents with a healthy, sustainable and stable food supply by working with the Capital Regional District, the Province, food producers, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, municipalities, and other stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for improving local and regional food security.

The Right Fit for You?

Saanich offers an attractive blend of comfortable, tree-lined neighbourhoods with convenient access to retail and shopping centres, as well as equally convenient access to forests, parks and oceans. Its central location makes it an ideal location for businesses looking to operate in a thriving rural/urban environment known for its diversity and strong labour force participation.

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

History

For thousands of years, the area that comprises Saanich today was a popular summer hunting and fishing ground for the First Nations W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. They are represented today by the Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tsawout, Tseycum and Malahat Nations. 

The name Saanich comes from a Straits Salish word meaning “elevated,” perhaps in reference to Mount Newton.

By the mid-1850s, Hudson’s Bay Company employees and the first colonial settlers began transforming the area’s virgin forests into productive farmland, which soon became a vital source of food for the region’s expanding population.

This rural history and settlement pattern is a continuing legacy, evident throughout the community in many buildings, structures, transportation links, and names. 

Beginning in 1896, three railroads (the Victoria and Sidney, B.C. Electric Interurban, and Canadian Northern Pacific) were built through Saanich in response to the pre-World War I land boom. Improved road connections led to the demise of the railways, but some rail beds have since become part of the regional trail system. 

Saanich was incorporated as a Municipality on March 1, 1906. In 1949, the most northerly and rural part of the Municipality became the District of Central Saanich. The original municipal hall was located in Royal Oak until the current municipal hall was built in 1965. It has since been designated as a heritage structure.

Following World War II, Saanich became a major residential area within a suburban community serving Greater Victoria.