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Cool Aid Society to build affordable housing at Tally Ho motel site on Douglas

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has received approval to build 154 units of affordable housing at the former Tally Ho motel site on Douglas Street.
Crosstown development
A $60-million transformation is planned for the former Tally Ho motel on Douglas Street.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has received approval to build 154 units of affordable housing at the former Tally Ho motel site on Douglas Street.

Victoria city council unanimously endorsed the $60-million Crosstown mixed-use development following a virtual public hearing Thursday night.

The six-storey project at 3020 Douglas St. and 584 Burnside Rd. East includes 100 affordable rental apartments, 54 subsidized supportive-housing units and 32,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

There will be 36 daycare spaces, a community art studio, a café, two levels of underground parking and a pedestrian walkway through the site.

It’s the most ambitious project ever undertaken by Cool Aid, and the society hopes to complete construction by the fall of 2022.

“For Cool Aid, I think the most exciting part of this is the mixed use — the fact that we’ll have a real community of people on this site,” said Kathy Stinson, chief executive officer. “People who need supports and people who just need affordable housing, as well as the other amenities.”

Tenants currently living in 52 temporary supportive-housing units at the former motel will remain there during construction and then move into the new building once it’s completed.

At that point, Cool Aid will likely sell off the section of the property fronting Douglas, which is entirely zoned commercial.

“We’re all about housing, so we’re excited to be doing a mixed-use project that has commercial as part of it, but we’re not interested in just doing solely commercial,” Stinson said.

Victoria council received messages of support for the project, as well as concerns from neighbours worried about rising crime rates and the concentration of temporary supportive-housing in Burnside-Gorge.

The neighbourhood is home to many of the motels now housing people from the former homeless camps at Topaz Park and Pandora Avenue.

Stinson acknowledged those comments in an interview Friday.

“I think there’s certainly heightened concern in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood now with the temporary sheltering sites that have moved in here,” she said. “And we certainly understand that, and we get that.

“We will continue to work closely with our neighbours and make sure that we’re part of the solution.”

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe echoed concerns about the rise in supportive housing in Burnside-Gorge. “I think they have taken more than their fair share and I would like to see it more spread out throughout the city and throughout the region,” she said.

But she still supports Cool Aid’s project, she said, because it offers many other amenities and housing types.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the problem isn’t supportive housing. “The problem is putting people in motels and calling it supportive housing.”

The Cool Aid project, by contrast, “looks like a beautiful new condo building” people can take pride in, Helps said.

Cool Aid said TL Housing Solutions will manage the project, which will employ up to 200 workers.