Cook Street Village development goes to public hearing

A proposed 48-unit condo building on the former Pic-A-Flic Video site in the Cook Street Village is headed to a public hearing.

Aragon Properties plans to demolish the commercial building, two houses and a duplex at Cook and Pendergast Streets to build a four-storey condominium with businesses on the first floor.

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Councillors previously balked at moving the project forward in December 2018. Instead, they directed staff to work with the developer and B.C. Housing to look at setting aside up to 20 per cent of the units for affordable rental housing.

Coun. Ben Isitt noted at the time that Fairfield suffered from “a distinct case of affluenza” and that one remedy would be to build a non-market building on the site.

City staff say Aragon subsequently approached B.C. Housing and the Capital Regional District about the possibility of including affordable housing. But the developer ultimately rejected the idea because the project doesn’t fit with any current B.C. Housing program and integrating affordable housing would require a complete redesign.

Instead, the developer has offered to contribute about $160,000 to the city’s housing reserve fund. The fund provides grants for the development and retention of affordable rental and home ownership projects.

Council voted 6-2 to move the project to public hearing with Isitt and Coun. Sharmarke Dubow in opposition.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the project appears to be an “amazing addition to the village” and that it’s time to let residents have a say. “This is a village centre and one-storey buildings in village centres in the 21st century simply don’t make sense,” she said.

Coun. Geoff Young said he supported slightly higher densities in that area as well and that the “overall philosophy behind this development is a reasonable one.”

Isitt and Dubow, however, objected to the absence of any affordable housing in the project.

Dubow said one of the problems with a cash-in-lieu contribution to the housing reserve fund is that the money generally gets used to build additional affordable housing in neighbourhoods that already have a significant amount, rather than spreading that housing around the city.

Isitt reiterated his desire to see the site used for rental housing for lower-income people.

“The reality is that at least a quarter of our community lives in poverty,” he said. “And that may very well go up as a result of the economic depression triggered by the pandemic.”

Aragon has dropped plans to include a daycare facility next door to the project at 380 Cook St. because it was not supported by the building’s strata council. The developer proposes to sell the unit to the city at 25 per cent below market value to allow for expansion of the Cook Street Village Activity Centre.

Councillors noted that a number of residents wrote to council in support of the entire project based on the possibility that expanding the activity centre would pave the way for a new health and wellness clinic in the neighbourhood.

Helps said council expects to receive a staff report on the issue before the project moves to a public hearing.

lkines@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Bill Cleverley

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