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Cordova Bay group rejects mixed-use project for plaza

Cordova Bay Plaza is nearly empty now that main tenant Tru Value Foods has closed, but replacement plans for the shopping centre have prompted a long list of concerns from the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs.
Doumac.jpg
An artist's rendering from February of the mixed-use development proposed for Cordova Bay Plaza. (Note that alterations to the design have been made that may not be reflected in the drawing.)

Cordova Bay Plaza is nearly empty now that main tenant Tru Value Foods has closed, but replacement plans for the shopping centre have prompted a long list of concerns from the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs.

In a letter to the Saanich planning department, the group rejects the project, describing it as too urban and out of scale and character for what should be a community focal point in the beachside area.

“It doesn’t have a village appeal,” said association president Larry Gontovnick. The group contends the project looks above grade at Cordova Bay Road, making four storeys seem more like five, has inadequate public meeting space and blank exterior walls, and overpowers existing nearby housing.

“The relationship of the proposed buildings to the neighbouring properties and to our main street, Cordova Bay Road, is troubling,” the letter said.

Architect Alan Lowe said he and developer James Gardiner Construction have worked to “create the most sympathetic development that meets the zoning bylaws,” predicting the development will be a “hub for Cordova Bay that will be vibrant and welcoming.” As for frontage, Lowe said it’s at grade on Cordova Bay Road, with the building only two storeys high.

“The stepping of the building as designed will never give the appearance of a five-storey building,” he said in an email to the association and the Times Colonist.

“We do not believe a two-storey building fronting Cordova Bay Road next to Cordova Bay Estates is inappropriate, when we would be allowed a four-storey facade in this location under the existing zoning bylaws.”

The current application calls for 88 condos in three levels atop commercial space, while a previous 1998 permit allowed only 16 condos, which were never built.

Saanich council would have to approve the increased number of condos on the old permit. The new development would also include a much larger Scotiabank branch at the corner of Doumac Avenue, something the association terms “overpowering,” and a 17,000-square-foot grocery store at the back of the Tru Value site.

Cordova Bay Vision Group spokesman Colin Millard said Lowe’s architectural drawings should reflect the size of the development relative to adjacent homes. He wondered why such a large grocery store is planned when several smaller ones have failed on the site.

As for calls for a larger community space with seating and bike racks, Lowe said: “We will review this with our team, as we have redesigned and created a more integrated pedestrian realm along Cordova Bay Road with the retail areas.”

Some changes have already been made to the plan to address the association’s concerns, Lowe said, but there are no plans to reduce the allowable density on the site.

Lowe said he and the developer will continue to work with the association, but “at the end of the day, it will be up to Saanich council to make the final decision.”

Jarret Matanowitsch, manager of the current planning division, said it’s in the best interest of development applicants to work with the community to resolve as many issues as possible before the application goes before council. “Having community support for a project is always a benefit to a proposal.”

kdedyna@timescolonist.com