Victoria council approves redevelopment of Wellburn's Market site

Victoria council has approved two new developments — one on the former Wellburn’s Market site and another in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood — that will add 258 apartments to the city’s supply of rental homes.

The Parkway project at Cook and Pandora will preserve about 50 per cent of the historic Wellburn’s building while incorporating six- and four-storey additions, a café, underground parking and 105 apartments — including studios, one- and two-bedroom units.

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A majority of councillors backed the proposal from District Developments and especially the construction of new apartments that will be locked-in as rental units in perpetuity.

“I do think that these are units that are desperately needed,” Coun. Marianne Alto said. “It will fill in one of the pieces in the continuum of rental housing … which is very much needed in the city.”

Coun. Sarah Potts, however, expressed concern about the loss of affordable apartments in the former Wellburn’s building and the absence of any such units in the new project.

“We really need a policy like Burnaby and New Westminister that discourages ‘renovictions’ and ‘demovictions’ without making arrangements for each tenant to continue their tenancy at the same rent, during and after the renovations,” she said.

Mayor Lisa Helps acknowledged that none of the apartments in the new project are considered “affordable housing.” But she said there already nearly 900 such units in the works in Victoria and agreed with Alto that the city needs all types of housing.

“So we’ve got an affordability challenge, but we also simply have a supply challenge, and those are two distinct challenges,” she said. “But I think that this will go to help plug the gaps in supply for people who want to live in Victoria, work in Victoria and either can’t afford to own in Victoria, or don’t want to own in Victoria.”

Coun. Jeremy Loveday praised the building’s design as well as the developers’ efforts to save a significant portion of the 109-year-old Wellburn’s building rather than just its façade — something that has happened in other projects downtown.

“Many would prefer to see the whole building kept, but I think this is more than just a facade, and has been designed in a thoughtful way,” he said.

The Burnside Gorge project features a six-storey building at Gorge Road East and Irma Street with commercial space on the ground floor, a public plaza, a children’s play area on the roof and 153 apartments — about half of which will be two- and three-bedroom units.

The developer, PC Urban Properties, will also contribute $17,500 to traffic calming measures on Irma.

“I think this is a quality project that will add much-needed rental housing in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood,” Loveday said, adding that he considered moving near that location a number of years ago and spent time exploring the neighbourhood.

“One of the things that I thought was really lacking was a coffee shop, a corner commercial hub to go to and I think this will add to that and will potentially play that role for some of the neighbours.”

In other moves, council approved a plan by Jawl Residential to build a 35-unit condo building on Oak Bay Avenue at Redfern Street. The site is home to the GardenWorks nursery and garden store.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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