‘Atrium-style’ apartment building at Cook and Fort streets in Victoria

Victoria city council has approved an 88-unit, six-storey building that will change the face of Fort and Cook streets.

Touting it as an Atrium-styled building for the southeast corner of the intersection, Abstract Developments founder Mike Miller said the $20-million development will start in 18 months.

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“This will feel very much like the Atrium [at the corner of Blanshard and Yates streets]. We’re using the same architect and the same landscaper,” said Miller, who has been planning the Cook Street project for three years.

D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism has been brought in to design the site that is bordered by Meares Street to the south, Cook to the west and Fort to the north. Murdoch de Greeff is the landscape architect.

Miller, who bought the 1909 building in 2010, said a project of its size — 88 residential units over 10,000 square feet of commercial space — takes some time to put together. He expects it will take a year and a half to configure the project and another 18 months to build it.

He also expects to keep some of the current commercial tenants who bring colour and history to the corner, including Kilshaw’s Auctioneers.

“We have spoken with some of the tenants about possibly looking for a temporary facility before bringing them back [to the finished project]. Obviously people like Alison Ross at Kilshaw’s are a strong presence in the community and, if we can work with them to keep them in there, then absolutely,” he said.

Kilshaw’s, acquired by Ross in 2006, has been working out of 1115 Fort St. since 1949. Ross did not immediately respond for comment on Monday.

Miller said he has heard some talk about the possibility of a boutique grocery store eyeing the space.

“We will retain ownership of the commercial use, so we have a long-term vested interest in the vitality of this project and sustainability of the building,” Miller said.

Miller said the project is another step in the revitalization of Fort Street and fits in with plans for densification of both Cook and Fort streets. “It’s got the feel of living downtown without the high-octane energy, so you have a transition between residential neighbourhoods and downtown,” he said.

When it goes to market in 18 months, the project will feature condo units starting below $200,000, two townhomes, underground parking, 101 secured bike storage spots, two-storey commercial space that can be broken into five separate units or combined as needed and a green roof on a six-storey, wood-frame building.

And while he was without his crystal ball Monday, Miller said he expects the market will react favourably to the building in a couple of years.

“I think the market for quality downsizing and strata-lifestyle condominiums will be very sought-after. Affordability will be important. But at the end of the day, there is a discerning buyer out there that wants quality,” he said.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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