Heritage Chinatown project given council go-ahead

Conversion of a group of historic Chinatown buildings, connected by private interior passageways and courtyards, into entry-level condominiums has taken another step forward.

Victoria councillors on Thursday approved heritage-related permits for the Lee Cheong Alley building at 533-537 Fisgard St. and the Lum Sam Courtyard building at 534 Pandora Ave., both owned by local developer Chris Le Fevre.

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Le Fevre is planning to keep ground-floor commercial at the Lee Cheong building. The rest of the site, including its small interior tenements, and the Lum Sam building will be converted into 25 condos, priced about $300,000.

City staff recommended issuance of the permits, which they said are consistent with city policies.

Mayor Lisa Helps called the rejuvenation project “exciting.”

“I’ve very, very happy to see this investment in our downtown,” Helps said.

“These buildings are expensive to renovate, and for me as mayor, I feel that every time something like this happens — significant reinvestment into heritage building — it’s a very strong sign of strength of the present and future and past of our downtown.”

Coun. Pam Madoff said the heritage conversion project stands out because, unlike many others, it is not proposing any additional height.

“This is a very experienced developer as well and … they’ve come forward with a development that respects all of those important principles about the scale and character of Old Town and in particular Chinatown that, unfortunately, we need to celebrate because we’re seeing that less and less,” Madoff said.

The existing buildings total about 15,000 square feet. Le Fevre has said the condominium units will be about 400 to 500 square feet each. The units will not have parking.

The buildings were constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the wake of the Fraser River and Cariboo gold rushes as workers and merchants arrived in Canada.

A narrow brick-lined walkway leads from Fisgard Street into courtyards and staircases.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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