It was hardly a ringing endorsement, but Victoria councillors didn't shut the door Thursday on a proposal to replace the three-storey Admiral Inn on Belleville Street with an eight-storey condominium development.
If ultimately approved by the city, the 30-unit condominium would replace the aging 33-unit, wood-frame inn at 257 Belleville St. In order to move ahead, the proposal requires a change from the existing transient accommodation zone to allow for residences and an increase in the allowable density.
The design steps down from eight storeys to three and was developed after extensive consultation with neighbours.
City planning staff recommended against rezoning the site. Coun. Pam Madoff, council's conscience on development issues, urged her colleagues to reject it.
"I looked at this very carefully, and I just don't see any compelling reason to rezone period," Madoff said, adding that council should take the long-term view of what's best for the city.
"It is not a site that has been identified in the community plan for rezoning. It doesn't further the objectives of the community plan, and when you look at the sites around the city that would have the existing zone on it, they are actually very few and far between," Madoff said.
"I haven't seen a shortage or a crisis in the sense that we're looking with any fervour for new locations for condominiums. We seem to be very well served," Madoff said.
But other councillors said they wanted at least to see a fleshing out and an economic analysis of the benefit package being proposed to compensate for an increase in density.
Suggested amenities include: the possibility of locating a small gallery within the project in co-operation with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; possible commercial uses that would contribute to the tourist district; enhancing connections to adjacent green spaces such as Charles Redfern Park; constructing a wider tree-lined sidewalk and a bike lane on Pendray Street; and enhancing the entrance to the waterfront walkway.
Coun. Geoff Young said he was prepared to look at an analysis of the amenity package.
"The proponents have proposed some upgrades on the street. I'm not sure to what extent we would be expecting those in any case and to what extent they represent additional benefits. I would at least like to get an indication of the value to us in the neighbourhood of some of those potential amenities," Young said.
Madoff, however, was not impressed.
"If I see one more application coming forward mentioning the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, I'm literally going to scream," Madoff said.
"So many people have tried to use that as a hook to the community and a hook to us, and I find it completely indefensible. That's what got us going with the Falls [condominium]. The same thing. Look what we got at the Falls a 7-Eleven."
Coun. Philippe Lucas saw little merit in the proposal.
"It's very hard for me to quantify in any way that if this building was there today ... what the net benefit would be to the neighbours, the tourists or for the city as a whole," he said.
Coun. Chris Coleman said he was impressed with the proposed design, which he said likely wouldn't be as sympathetic if it was a hotel proposal.
"There will be an issue with height if it moves forward, but I think some of the treatments that have come with it have been very useful," Coleman said.