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Making the move from Vancouver to Victoria, where things are heating up

There’s just something magnetic about Victoria lately. Vancouver Island is lit up with expansion and opportunity, and Urban Systems team members are taking notice. Both Ehren Lee and Dan Todd recently packed their families up to work out of Urban’s Victoria office to better serve their burgeoning client-base on the Island.

A Different Vibe

Ehren and his family
Ehren and his family
If you ask Ehren, a Water Strategy Consultant who has been with Urban Systems for nearly a decade, it’s not just that Vancouver Island boasts the mildest climate in Canada, has a healthy high-tech industry that is ever expanding, 37,000 full time students or a thriving outdoor culture that values lifestyle, friendliness, coffee (and yes beer), it’s that life on Vancouver Island has an altogether “different vibe” in general. The Island needs a particular set of expertise Ehren feels Urban is poised to provide.

“Here, it’s this great blend of modern Canadian hippy with a very neat mix of laid back agrarian lifestyle. Then you add boat culture and a regional city that’s quickly growing and very techy. Really it’s a microcosm of what BC has to offer, all set in a very small area.”

Ehren says he and his team made a goal to explore opportunities on Vancouver Island a year ago, and through the past year they realized that their hunches were right and there is opportunity. “Our strategy was simple. When a project comes in we deliver quickly and accurately and try to be in person to demonstrate we get what’s going on. That basic strategy of seeing opportunity and delivering is keeping clients happy and growing our team and business. That’s exciting.”

Prior to the move, Ehren was commuting to Victoria from Vancouver about three days a week, and with more and more projects and clients showing up, he realized that it was time to make the big move. He and his wife, two-year-old son and five-month-old daughter couldn’t be happier with their choice. He laughs about how easily his son took to the move.

“How do you communicate a move to a two year old? Well, we just told him he’d get longer bike rides, bigger parks and a new bed. He was thrilled. Actually, I’m pretty thrilled about getting the same three things myself!”

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Lifestyle and Community

Community Infrastructure Engineer Dan Todd echos Ehren’s enthusiasm. Dan and his wife made their decision to move from Vancouver to the Island in May.

“It all happened pretty fast after we made up our minds. We listed our condo on Main street in June and it sold it in a week. Then we quickly found a great place in Mill Bay. A lot of the clients I serve are up island, so I am commuting into Victoria three to four days a week, then spending a day or two a week on the road, heading up North.”

Urban’s Ties Growing

Dan’s focus is on developing relationships with First Nations and small communities and supporting their growth. He says that not long ago, Urban had a smaller presence working with First Nations on the Island, so his task has been to get out get in front of people, get projects under Urban’s belt and to bolster awareness.

“At first it was a long slow grow,” he says. “Eventually we started getting the odd First Nations project here and there and over the last year Ehren and I were more focused on commuting to the Island to have more facetime.”

Soon the projects began to ramp up, and Dan says that in the last six months in particular, work has started snowballing. “We’re seeing a surge of growth now. We are getting requests from lots of clients and forming great relationships with a few key clients such as the City of Nanaimo.”

When Dan realized it made more sense for him to be based on the Island, he says that as soon as his feet landed, even more work came through the door. He and his wife are quickly making themselves at home and that they’re passionate about the community..

“To me it’s a totally different lifestyle here,” says Dan. “I was in Vancouver at the right time in my life, in my twenties, but as I realized I wanted to start a family and buy a house, I felt like it was time for a change. Here in Mill Bay it is much more affordable, the pace of life is a little slower and the things I like to do in my off-time—like surfing, hiking, fishing, boating—well, it’s just so much easier to do them here. I’m really excited to be here, and my wife is too. Our house is a fixer upper with a nice yard and a great ocean view. We can walk a block down to the beach and take the dogs for a swim—the pace and the vibe here is something we both love.”

Kate Berniaz
Kate Berniaz
Kate Berniaz, who has been in the Victoria office since it opened, says that the recent growth at the Urban Office in Victoria shows there is a recognition that projects are ramping up and that even more potential work is around the corner.

“It’s added a new dynamic to have fresh new people on site. The more expertise we have here, the more opportunities we see for inter-disciplinary work that comes when you have engineers, planners, and more in the same office. We’re able to serve our Island clients even better. And, with the welcome addition of Dan and Ehren, we now have a critical mass for our ongoing Thursday breakfast sandwich evaluation, staff meetings and Foundation activities.”

On the Horizon

The future looks bright for the team in Victoria. With strong client relationships and a solid reputation in the marketplace, they’re looking forward to making great strides and contributing to some big initiatives over the next year. And they’re hoping to enjoying the pleasures of Island life, a great community and a quickly growing city while they do it.

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