278 new rental units downtown get the go-ahead from Victoria council

Victoria council has given the green light to a 278-unit rental housing development downtown.

The project by Vancouver-based Denciti ­Development Corp. and Nicola Wealth Real Estate will see two buildings on 1.5 acres bordering Government, Herald and Chatham streets —at the crossroads of Chinatown, the Old Town District and Rock Bay Innovation District.

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The 196,170-square-foot project will be built on nine lots, including the site of the current Fountain Tire shop, two older commercial buildings and a patchwork of parking lots.

Construction value is estimated at $64 million.

Council unanimously approved a development permit with height variances as well as an agreement with the developer to keep the units as rentals for 60 years.

Councillors championed the developer for making changes in designs to the buildings, which range from four to six storeys and will be built above underground parking and tied together by an interior courtyard.

Mayor Lisa Helps said 278 units of rental housing in downtown “is much needed … people need places to live.

She applauded the developer for taking staff and council’s recommendations into account after a committee of the whole meeting in June.

“The application is stronger and a better fit. Hopefully between you and our staff, we can do everything possible to get the building permit in your hands, get shovels in the ground and get these units built.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe praised the developer for incorporating designs that mesh with heritage buildings in the Chinatown area. “I think the work that’s been done is very sensitive to the area. The design and quality of architecture is very high,” she said. “By bringing more residential to the north end of downtown, it brings more people and more business, especially to Chinatown. And Chinatown businesses could use the extra support.”

Sections of the buildings, faced with different colours of brick, are designed with step-backs from the street to provide small gathering areas. Contemporary canopies will cover entrances to the buildings and sidewalks surrounding the project will be covered in coloured tiles.

A total of 20,000 square feet of new ground-level commercial space will run along all sides of the buildings.

David Fawley, principal of Denciti Development Corp., told a public hearing Thursday night that the property is underutilized and in need of improvement and transformation.

He said the project will be beneficial to the downtown, where people “can both live and work.”

Plans call for 185 underground parking stalls for residents and 23 for commercial tenants.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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