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Victoria council delays decision on whether it will allow Telus Ocean tower to be built

12-storey tower proposed for downtown Victoria
An artist's rendering shows an aerial view of the proposed Telus Ocean office tower from the southwest. VIA ARYZE DEVELOPMENTS

Councillors ran out of time to make a decision Thursday evening on the Telus Ocean project, a 12-storey office tower proposed to be built on a triangle-shaped lot at Douglas and Humboldt streets, after hearing from dozens of speakers over more than three hours during a public hearing.

Councillors will meet again next Thursday at 9 a.m. to discuss the project and vote on whether to give it the green light.

The ­building would serve as a ­Telus headquarters, combining existing offices into one location for about 250 staff. The building is designed for Telus to expand to more than 450 employees. The ground floor of the building would have a lobby open to the public, retail space, a restaurant and improvements to the public realm, including an expanded sidewalk on Douglas Street. In addition to office space, event space and an area to support the growing tech sector are planned.

Telus and partner Aryze Developments see the proposed building as a hub for lower Douglas Street, attracting people to downtown.

The company has made several revisions to the plans in response to concerns raised during consultation, including reducing the amount of glass facade to less than 50 per cent of the building, rotating the building to reduce the infringement of views of the Olympic Mountains, and reducing the size and density of the project.

Councillors heard from neighbours who opposed the project, arguing the building would be too big and would overwhelm the area.

Ian Sutherland, chair of the Downtown Victoria Residents Association land use committee, said in an interview neighbours are “unambiguously opposed.” About 82 per cent of the 128 people who provided feedback through the city’s development tracker did not want to see the project go forward. Neighbouring buildings are largely residential or hotels, he said.

“The building is basically twice as massive as what the [official community plan] anticipated for the site,” Sutherland said.

Tim Chmiliar, a neighbour on Burdett Avenue whose balcony would look directly onto the project, submitted a video to express his support, despite demonstrating how the project will block sunlight in his condominimum and his views of the Olympic Mountains. He cited the potential for the project to increase property values of nearby condos, increase services for residents and provide jobs during construction.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association and some downtown business owners expressed support for the project, saying it would bring jobs and more foot traffic to the core.

“We really think it would bolster the economy, our community, and it shows that Victoria is a very important place to be, as to why [Telus] would want to invest and have their office here,” said Erin Boggs, a co-owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store.

If the project is approved, the two car-rental companies operating on the space would have to move when construction begins.

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