Owner of Plaza Hotel can demolish building's burned-out shell — if heritage elements saved

Victoria hopes some heritage elements of the former Plaza Hotel can be saved and be incorporated into any future development on the site.

Ocean Gate Developments has applied for a heritage-alteration permit to demolish the building’s shell and to clean up the site, including removal of debris and excavation. The empty building was gutted by fire on May 6. Victoria police and fire inspectors continue to investigate the blaze, which has been deemed suspicious.

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City staff are recommending the permit be issued for the work, provided the owner save several elements deemed of heritage value. Those include:

• Two round polished-granite columns that flanked the original entry to what was once the Hotel Westholme. They were encased in a metal surround that protected them from fire and structural damage.

• A section of white glazed brick from the upper storeys that survived with minimal damage.

• Heavy structural timbers that suffered only minor fire damage.

• Cast-iron columns potentially encased in what remains of the main-floor facade facing Government Street.

• Ten-foot-tall square tapered cast-iron structural columns supporting the front facade below ground level at the property line parallel with the sidewalk.

• Sidewalk glass prisms beneath the existing Government Street sidewalk that are intact and could add to the city’s existing prism stock.

Vacated in 2013, the Plaza property was bought in 2016 by Ocean Gate Developments Ltd. of West Vancouver.

In July 2017, the company submitted an application to redevelop the site into 100 residential units and ground-floor commercial space within the existing building.

The structure dated back to 1911, when it opened as the Westholme Hotel, featuring an upscale 6,000-square-foot dining room called the Songhees Grill.

Over the next century, it would be would take on a number of personas, including an Arabian Nights-themed hotel, restaurant and cocktail bar, a folk club and a strip club.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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