Fort Street cottage dating to 1895 to be demolished

One of the last remaining buildings from commercial Fort Street’s history as a residential area will likely be demolished as early as next spring.

The wooden yellow cottage at 950 Fort St., now home to a flower shop, was built around 1895, according to the Hallmark Heritage Society. It has been purchased by de Hoog & Kierulf architects, which does not plan to maintain the existing structure.

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“Long term, no. It’s a redevelopment site,” architect Charles Kierulf confirmed.

The 3,360-square-foot retail property sold for $505,000 on June 14, according to B.C. Assessment records. Zoning on the site allows for four-storey commercial retail space. Beyond conducting a survey of the site, the architecture firm has not yet contacted the city for a development permit or started planning what a new development might look like, Kierulf said. If the firm keeps the building for its own purposes, it would not likely push for rezoning beyond four storeys, he said.

The architecture firm has rented a space across from the site for about 10 years. It has about one year remaining on its lease and could move into the new space, Kierulf said. “We like the neighbourhood,” Kierulf said. The earliest development might happen is next spring or summer, he said.

Miria Gordaneer, owner at Daisy Chain Florists, has rented the cottage for 10 years. The florist will move to Daisy Chain Design Studio, a home studio at 1005 Carberry Gardens. The shop will host a closing sale Saturday.

“The building has had many, many, many lives. It’s been an antique store, second-hand store, it’s been a Persian store where they taught how to smoke a hookah and do Persian dancing. It has been a bookstore three or four times. It’s a lovely little space,” Gordaneer said.

The building has gone through some significant rebuilding, she said, including after the roof collapsed during the snow storm of 1996. It continues to have structural problems, she said. “The place is falling apart. Every time construction happens down here, the place cracks up a bit more. There’s new cracks up in the ceilings and everywhere. I really love the building, but we have to change,” she said.

Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, said the earliest record of the building is 1895. Agnes Keefer was listed as a resident, although it is unclear if she was owner or tenant. “It was used as a residence for 10 to 12 years, then slowly Fort Street went into small commercial [use]. It’s kind of the last remnant of what was a residential district on Fort Street from Blanshard eastward,” Johnson said.

It’s unlikely the cottage will be saved, he said, since it’s in the city’s Harris Green core residential area, which is zoned for high-density development.

The society has little information about the cottage, but Johnson said a building from 1890s is not significantly old for Victoria. “The whole city was old buildings, once upon a time. We have an amazing amount of data, but it’s all too easy to miss a few,” he said. “We discover in many cases there are very old buildings tucked away behind these modern facades.”

City archivist Trevor Livelton said there isn’t much information about the cottage. “It’s not on the heritage registry, which would have extensive information.”

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