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Urban Systems Heads Up-Island

Vancouver Island is a big place, stretching over 32,000 km2 – somewhat deceiving for a place that sits at the Western edge of Canada. Urban Systems has been servicing communities on the island for over two decades remotely, and from our downtown Victoria office since 2011. As our relationships have grown and workload up-Island increased, it became increasingly clear that it was time to expand northward, to be able to provide better service for the communities in the area. In May, we launched our new Courtenay office, adding a fourteenth location to our branch list.

Jake Hughson and Mei Tang at the new office

“One of the distinguishing elements that sets us apart as a company is being local and present.” Explains Jake Hughson, a community planner that is heading up the Courtenay office. “It allows us to better serve our clients.” A number of years ago, our talented group of South Coast consultants started working with the City of Courtenay, building a great relationship with the local government and the surrounding community. Jake sees being physically present in the community as an opportunity to further support that relationship, as well as establishing new relationships with nearby local governments and First Nations communities.

“We’ve been increasing our support on the North Island, but haven’t had the capacity to grow more up-island until now.” Said Jake. Starting in Nanaimo and travelling north, there are 36 First nations communities with four tribal councils, as well as six regional districts, all with increasing needs. The Courtenay office will serve as a central anchor, enabling easier travel to these areas and allowing for an increased level of commitment to them.

For fellow community planner, Dan Huang, having a home base in Courtenay will allow him to not only continue his work for the City of Courtenay, but also to be better connected to the City of Campbell River and the Strathcona Regional District, another new and growing relationship. “Opening a location in Courtenay goes to our core philosophy – providing local support for our clients.”

While Jake will call Courtenay his home, the cozy office space will provide consultants in Victoria, Surrey and Vancouver a workspace during their trips to the area, reinforcing inter-office collaboration and providing opportunities for consultants with specializations to team up. Such is the case for Dan Todd in Victoria, collaborating with Ben Mulhall in Vancouver on a development for the Gold River Campground, on the lands of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations.

Pop up intersection at 5th St. and Fitzgerald Ave.

Locally, projects within the City of Courtenay will continue to be supported as new opportunities are explored. Currently underway is the 5th Street Complete Streets Project, located steps from the new office. Together with the City, Urban Systems has initiated a pilot intersection at the start of the project, in order to introduce a complete street model to the entrance to Downtown Courtenay, enabling multi-modal transportation options for the community. “Once it’s complete, it will serve as a template for other areas.” Dan Huang points out. The project is at the 30% design stage, with a construction completion timeline for the end of 2018.

With his wife having grown up in Courtenay, and raising two young girls, Jake is eager to continue building relationships both professionally and personally in the community. The local presence for Urban Systems will allow for new opportunities in land use planning, civil engineering and asset management projects with local governments and the neighbouring First Nations communities, and will make expanding our service offerings in the area easier, ensuring we are able to help create more vibrant communities on the island.

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