Condos pitched for Victoria Truth Centre land

Abstract Developments has submitted a rezoning plan to city hall to build 91 housing units on the soon-to-be-sold Victoria Truth Centre property at Fort Street and Pentrelew Place.

A park-like setting is planned for the nearly two-acre property, said Mike Miller, founder of Victoria’s Abstract Developments.

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“We went through a very, very onerous process with the architect and the arborist to save many trees that can live for a long time, and really design the buildings around those trees.”

Under the proposal, condominiums would be located in two buildings — one six storeys and the other five storeys. There would also be 10 townhouses and one level of underground parking.

“We’ve got trees that are taller than the six-storey building,” Miller said.

Sale of the church property, at 1201 Fort St. and 1050 Pentrelew Pl., closes at the end of this month, Miller said. He is paying $7.2 million. The church is being permitted to remain for three more months, at a rent of $1 per month.

A sales agreement was struck amid a battle among church supporters over which group had the authority to control the property. The dispute ended up in B.C. Supreme Court.

The church has owned the site since 1949, but attendance has dwindled over the years. The court decided in favour of the group wanting to sell the land and relocate to another, less-costly location.

If all goes smoothly, existing church buildings will be deconstructed, Miller said. He is also buying a single-family house on an adjacent property. That sale closes early in 2017 and he plans to deconstruct that house. That land would hold part of the proposed townhouse component.

Abstract hopes to be in front of council in late spring or early summer, Miller said. If approved, construction would start in late 2017 or early 2018.

“We are really trying to target the downsizers’ market,” Miller said. One-bedroom units would likely start at about $400,000 each. The price would reflect larger units, bigger decks and the site’s green space.

Victoria Coun. Pamela Madoff, liaison with the Rockland area, said many people view that “extraordinary” site as the gateway to Rockland. “A site of that size, in that neighbourhood ... they just don’t exist.”

She called this a chance of a lifetime on a property that “really deserves something special.”

It is a complex property, given that the Fort Street side and Pentrelew Place side are in different contexts, Madoff said. Fort Street is a busy urban street, while Pentrelew is a quiet area with single-family historic houses, with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria on nearby Moss Street.

The church land was once the home of Sir Henry Pering Pellew Crease, the city's first barrister.

He built an Italianate-style mansion in 1875 that was taken down in the 1980s to make room for new church buildings. Heritage advocates battled to save it, but eventually the city permitted its removal.

There were at least two wells on the site, Madoff said. “When the building was being demolished, what I’ve heard from a number of people, is that they just threw chandeliers and fireplaces and various things in these wells. And now, they are paved over with the driveways.”

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