Victoria considers heritage designation for Vic West street

A section of Robert Street in Vic West could become a heritage conservation area.

Victoria councillors have agreed to have staff investigate after being petitioned to do so by local residents.

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If the area is designated, a heritage alteration permit would need to be issued by the city for activities such as subdividing, building additions, or altering heritage features.

The city could grant some exemptions, staff say, for things such as interior renovations, some exterior painting, roof replacement with similar materials, rear deck construction, landscaping alterations, garden suites in the backyard, insulation, weather stripping or mechanical system upgrades.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she supports the designation.“This is the citizen-led response to preserving the city’s character even while the reset of the city continues to grow and change,” she said.

Staff said 12 of 16 surveys sent to residents were returned. Nine were in favour of the Heritage Conservation Area designation and three were opposed, representing 56 per cent of property owners on the street.

Councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto asked staff to report back about mechanisms for people on the street who are not in a heritage house to opt out.

The proposed heritage conservation area would include a collection of 14 1 1/2-storey houses; four were built around the beginning of the 20th century in the Queen Anne and Colonial Bungalow styles, city staff say.

Most of the remaining houses were built between 1939 and 1943 in the English or French storybook style.

The 14 properties in the study area were created through a subdivision in the 1800s. James Muirhead Sr. acquired six lots on Robert Street between 1881 and 1900. In 1903, he constructed a house at the southeast corner of Esquimalt Road and Robert Street, at 527 Esquimalt Rd.

“Members of the family eventually built two other houses on the street, only one of which survives at 223 Robert Street,” the staff report says.

“The Muirheads maintained the lands in between 527 Esquimalt Road and 223 Robert Street as an apple orchard planted with King Apple trees, a variety that is close to extinct in Victoria.”

Residents say there are surviving specimens along the street.

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