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Victoria city staff recommend against tax break for development at former Wellburn's site

Developers of the 105-unit rental project are asking for an up-to-10-year tax break
Artist’s rendering shows planned project for the Wellburn’s Market building at Cook Street and Pandora Avenue. VIA THE DISTRICT GROUP

Victoria council will decide this week if a 105-unit rental project at the former Wellburn’s grocery site at the corner of Pandora Avenue and Cook Street is eligible for an up-to-10-year tax break.

The goal of the tax incentive program is to help developers preserve heritage elements of buildings while they perform seismic upgrading.

A city staff report is recommending that council decline the tax-break application for this project — which was approved by council in 2020 and is already underway — as it meets only a few of the nine criteria required.

The report said while the project offers needed rental housing and has heritage designation, construction began before the tax-incentive application came to council, the developers excavated below the original building foundations and they intend to build higher than allowed, among other things.

The report also noted that more of the existing structure was removed than initially discussed, and the lack of retention was not justified through a seismic assessment that should have occurred at a much earlier stage in the tax incentive program process. When the project was approved in 2020, it was on the basis that it would preserve about 50 per cent of the historic building while incorporating six- and four-storey additions, a café, underground parking and 105 apartments.

The original Parkway Apartments was a two-storey, Edwardian-era mixed-use building designed by architect William Ridgway Wilson in 1911.

Wellburn’s Market, which occupied the ground floor, was one of its earliest tenants. ­Matthew Wellburn, a grocer, moved to the premises in 1914, following two other groceries that failed, according to Victoria Heritage Foundation documents.

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