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South Jubilee 34-unit rental building proposal goes to public hearing

Six-storey rental building with ground-floor commercial space would replace an existing four-unit townhouse development at 1693-1699 Fort St.
A six-storey, 34-unit rental building is being proposed by Aryze Developments. Via D'Ambrosio Architects for Aryze

A 34-unit rental project in the South Jubilee ­neighbourhood, initially conceived as student housing, will now head to ­public hearing as a mixed-use, ­purpose-built rental ­development after getting ­unanimous approval from V­ictoria council’s committee of the whole Thursday.

The project, proposed by Aryze Developments, would see a six-storey rental building with ground-floor commercial space replace an existing four-unit townhouse development at ­1693-1699 Fort St.

The proposal requires rezoning and an amendment to the official community plan.

It also calls for only nine parking stalls for the ­building. There are plans for bus passes for all residents for three years, parking for a car-share vehicle and car-share ­memberships for each unit, 63 long-term bike stalls and six visitor bike stalls.

Coun. Matt Dell noted the proposed building is on a major transit corridor, near bike lanes and close to ­amenities like drugstores and grocery stores, making it suitable for life ­without a motor vehicle.

“It’s just really a growing area and I think a great location for this type of rental project,” he said. “I completely appreciate that if we put more parking on this site, we would completely lose the ability to actually build any housing here. I think this is going to serve a segment of the population that is looking for this.”

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said it’s the right kind of density for the location.

“I love the fact that it’s a ­proposed mixed-use facility,” he said. “And I’m just delighted that it’s purpose-built rental. We’ve seen a lot of it and I’m really hoping that trend ­continues. The fact there’s a handful of affordable units is even a bonus.”

Although the project was initially conceived as student housing, Aryze principal Luke Mari said they changed their minds after concerns were raised by neighbours, and opted to broaden the rental pool.

Aryze has also committed to four affordable rental units in the project.

Not everyone is keen on the plans, however. Of responses to public engagement with the neighbourhood, only two of 16 were in favour.

Others felt the project was too big for the neighbourhood, would affect tree coverage and would add to an already difficult ­parking situation.

Area resident Robert ­Rawson said in his submission that the six-storey building will “dwarf” the four-storey apartment ­buildings around it and could lead to more structures of that size in the neighbourhood, “effectively turning a pleasant place to live into an overly dense, busy downtown feel.”

“I understand the need for development in a growing city, but I would urge you to be more sensitive to the existing nature of my neighbourhood and the quality of life for its residents and submit a plan more ­appropriate to those criteria.”

Nearby neighbour Rafe ­Sunshine said the neighbourhood already has a lot of pressure for on-street parking, and a smaller building would be a better fit.

Aryze’s plans for the site cater to the emerging car-free lifestyle that council seems to favour, based on other projects it has approved this year.

Coun. Dave Thompson said the fact parking is reduced ticks one of his boxes. He also noted the city remains in a “crisis-level” housing shortage and the project offers to replace four units with 34.

Coun. Stephen Hammond said he could support sending the project to a public hearing, but warned his colleagues about approving a number of projects with little or no parking.

“We also have to be very careful that if every one of our land-use proposals going ahead, or many of them, only give the option that you really don’t have a car, then I just wonder where people’s cars are going to go,” he said.

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