A revised proposal for the Northern Junk property adjacent to the Johnson Street bridge will go to public hearing.
"I think there's a chance for something spectacular here," said Mayor Dean Fortin, adding it's time to hear from the public.
Victoria councillors have long wrestled with development plans for the site at the entrance to Old Town. The property is home to two derelict 1860s-vintage warehouses known as the Northern Junk buildings and includes a piece of city land adjacent to the bridge.
Only councillors Pam Madoff and Ben Isitt voted against sending it to hearing.
"In my opinion, what this site really calls for is basically a village of small buildings," Madoff said.
Under the plan proposed by Vancouver-based Reliance Properties, the Northern Junk buildings would be restored and linked with a glazed atrium, at a cost of more than $3 million. Reliance president Jon Stovell envisions the heritage buildings being used for commercial use such as a restaurant.
A new five-storey building with ground-floor commercial topped with between 55 and 60 condominium units would wrap around the old buildings.
The mass of the new structure has been scaled back - essentially creating two buildings instead of one - to open up views.
Landscaping plans call for a waterfront walkway stretching north to the new Johnson Street bridge.
"I would prefer to see a development that respects a much wider public foreshore," Isitt said.
"If we look at the edge of the new building that's proposed, it actually juts out even farther into the harbour than the old warehouse, and I don't believe that's the most progressive way to proceed."
But several other councillors said they were happy with what has been proposed and want to hear from the public.
Coun. Lisa Helps said the building would be a great contribution to a gateway to the city.
"I don't understand how it could be moved farther back from the water because there are those heritage buildings that look like they are about to fall down if you take one brick away. So I don't think we can relocate the heritage buildings farther away," she said.
The project "screams walkability," Coun. Shellie Gudgeon said.
"I would argue that sometimes a pedestrian walkway that is too wide is actually not as walkable."
Estimated cost of rehabilitating and seismically upgrading the Northern Junk buildings is $3.1 million. That portion of the project will be eligible for a 10-year tax exemption under a city incentive program to encourage heritage restoration.
A third-party economic analysis said the project's costs total $31 million and would create 194 person years of employment in planning and building.
Future residents would have an expected annual retail spending potential of $823,000 by 2017, the report said. The site's commercial space is anticipated to create up to 48 full-time equivalent positions, resulting in gross wages of close to $1 million.
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