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Hotel plan for historic building on Victoria’s Wharf Street

A building on Wharf Street known for its nautical history and giant mural of orcas could become a boutique hotel. Robert Fung, president of the Salient Group, which owns the property at 1244-1252 Wharf St.
The property at 1244-1252 Wharf St. in downtown Victoria was built in 1882 and has been best known as a ship chandler. Pacific Design Academy is now the buildingÕs only tenant.

A building on Wharf Street known for its nautical history and giant mural of orcas could become a boutique hotel.

Robert Fung, president of the Salient Group, which owns the property at 1244-1252 Wharf St., said the company is considering how to redevelop the building and has approached the City of Victoria for a zoning change that would allow a hotel.

“It’s early stages and we are looking at all our options going forward,” Fung said in an interview. “Hotels are allowed all around, but not on this specific site. So we want to get some consistency on zoning and take into account all the conversations on what to do” with the property.

The building — with three storeys above street grade and two below sloping to the harbour — was built in 1882 by James Yates and designed by John Teague. An addition was added in 1896.

It housed dry goods and grocery companies, but was best known as a ship chandler with various operators running marine hardware businesses over most of its life. In the 1980s, it became Gallagher’s Restaurant and, soon after, Chandler’s Seafood Restaurant. The Guild Pub opened in 2013, but it has since closed. Pacific Design Academy is currently the only tenant.

The mural of the A-5 orca pod on the building’s north side was completed in 1987 by artist Robert Wyland, who has painted more than 100 “whale walls” worldwide.

Vancouver-based Salient Group recently acquired the property from Reliance Properties, which redeveloped the Janion Hotel and is working on designs for the Northern Junk site.

The Wharf Street property was assessed at $3.5 million in 2019.

Fung said the building could potentially support 25 hotel rooms on the upper and lower floors, and a vibrant street-level business such as a pub or restaurant would add to the hotel’s appeal and bring more activity to the foot of Yates Street. He said it would be a traditional hotel — not a short-term rental, as the city restricted that use two years ago to combat a growing housing affordability crisis.

Fung said the company also wants to use the waterfront and David Foster Walkway in some way to support the hotel. Several ideas will be considered over the next several months, he said.

“It’s a very stable, sturdy building. The original foundation is stone and there are wooden beams. We want to find ways to show off its many features and its history.” The Salient Group specializes in developing historic buildings. It has several properties in Vancouver and has recently grown its portfolio in Victoria.

Fung said the company will soon begin upgrading its property at 539 Fisgard St. in Chinatown. He said it is in discussions with tenants on how to proceed without disruptions for them, and the neighbouring Fan Tan Alley, renowned as Canada’s narrowest street. Salient Group also owns 3 Fan Tan Alley, built in 1910, an office-retail building at 650 View St., and has recently completed the Sawyer Block, the restoration of the old Sawyer Sewing Building with the addition of 60 rental units on Fort Street.

Fung is also leading a major revitalization across the street at 819-827 Fort St., which will maintain the historic facades of two Fort Street buildings while bringing a range of rental housing and 5,000 square feet of commercial space to the neighbourhood.

Fung said moving ahead on the Wharf Street property will take time and plans could change to an office building or rentals. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught him “to take the time and be as flexible as possible,” he said.

He said it’s his goal to “take the building back to when it was at its best.”

“It’s always challenging to find the most relevant use in a building for the longest period of time and for it to [realize] the best financial outcome to the area.”

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