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100-unit rental building pitched for Fort Street in Victoria

10-storey Fort Street development goes to public hearing, half listed as ‘moderate’ rents
Artist's rendering of the proposed rental building along the 800 block of Fort Street downtown.

A proposal to build a mixed-use, 10-storey rental building while preserving the heritage facades of two existing buildings in the 800-block of Fort Street will go to public hearing.

An ownership group named 825 Fort Street plans to build a combination of about 100 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units at 819-827 Fort St.

The steel-and-concrete building will include two floors of underground parking with stalls for 57 vehicles, a reduction from the required 75.

The development would have 139 bicycle parking stalls (including four electric-bike charging stations) with bike repair and bike cleaning stations and a third-storey outdoor pet run and pet-wash area.

It includes retention and rehabilitation of historic facades of the buildings at 825 Fort St. and at 819-823 Fort St.

Forty-five Modo car-share memberships and a dedicated car-share vehicle parking space are to be provided.

The proposal requires a rezoning and a heritage alteration permit with variances.

Councillors supported staff recommendations to increase the building’s upper storey side and rear setbacks.

“I think what staff is recommending is pull the balconies back a little bit so there would still be reasonable light penetration and then as you get higher pull things back a little bit as well to maintain some reasonable relationship between the buildings and to keep the lower level dwellings reasonably livable as the rest of the block is developed,” Coun. Geoff Young said.

City staff said that an independent analysis concluded the additional density does not translate into a lift in land value because the proposal is for rental, not strata. Therefore, the city’s inclusive-housing density bonus policy does not apply

While the project does not provide any “affordable” units, the applicant noted that based on current market rates it’s estimated that more than 50 per cent of the suites will rent to households in the “moderate” income bracket of between $55,000 and $85,000. However the applicant declined to put that in a legal agreement.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he expects a full explanation from the developer during the public hearing as to why the rental rates can’t be guaranteed.

Coun. Laurel Collins said it is exciting to have a proposal for rental in perpetuity come forward. But she said wants to see more detail about the proposed unit rents. She proposed city staff explore with the developer the possibility of a shared roof-top space for tenants.

“I would like to see a little more detail in general when it comes to what we’re talking about when it comes to this broad $55,000 to $85,000 [income range for renters.] Fifty per cent of these units are going to be in that range and my assumption is, I guess they’re probably at the $85,000 level, but maybe that’s not true,” she said.

Young said the heritage facade retention “maintains the tradition of Fort Street being a pedestrian oriented low-level street.”

The existing heritage registered building at 825 Fort St. was built in 1911-12 for the B.C. Hardware Company. None of the building’s original interior elements remain.

The building at 819-823 Fort St. was built in 1908 for G. Bergstrom Bjornfelt as a Swedish massage parlour and Turkish Bath House.