83-unit rental redevelopment in Fairfield gets green light

A proposal to replace the 1965-built Beacon Arms apartment with a six-storey, 83-unit rental apartment and four affordable townhouses has been approved by Victoria council following a public hearing.

Analogue Projects made the application on behalf of Surfside Holdings. The third-generation Victoria company is operated by the Kerr family, who say the Beacon Arms in Fairfield has reached the end of its life.

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Surfside owns and operates several apartment buildings in the city and has owned the 34-unit Beacon Arms in the 500-block of Quadra Street at Convent Place, across Southgate Street from Beacon Hill Park, since 1979. The project includes removal of two single-family houses.

Beacon Arms has a failing foundation, aging plumbing and pipes, sagging windows and floors and exterior siding that is separating from the structure, said Stuart Kerr.

The $35-million replacement proposal presents “a real opportunity to maintain and to grow the rental stock in this neighbourhood with a project that checks all boxes, a project that meets and exceeds all the frameworks that the city has laid out,” Kerr said.

He said the project increases the supply of rental housing and encourages diversity of housing types with large one- and two-bedroom units as well as four three-bedroom-and-den affordable townhouses.

It includes 94 underground parking units. Fifty per cent of the units will come with car-share memberships and there will be 128 bicycle stalls.

The affordable units are being provided even though the city’s draft inclusionary housing policy excludes the requirement for purpose-built rental buildings. “The fact that we’re proposing affordable units in and of itself exceeds the draft inclusionary housing policy,” Kerr said.

He said they have exceeded city policies for relocation assistance. Nineteen residents remain in the Beacon Arms.

The tenants have had rent freezes since 2017 and have been offered first right of refusal on other units in the Surfside portfolio.

“Overall, our goal is to create an asset to the community with a thoughtful design approved by the advisory design panel using high-quality materials and energy efficient construction,” Kerr said.

Boulevard trees will be kept.

While some opposed the project, saying the new units would be unaffordable, and others objected to its height and extra traffic, several called on council to approve it, citing the need for new rental accommodation.

Councillors Laurel Collins and Sarah Potts lauded the project for demonstrating that inclusion of affordability is possible. Coun. Jeremy Loveday supported the project, but said he was concerned about the loss of the existing units, which are rented at more affordable rates. And Coun. Ben Isitt said he would have preferred to have seen a higher degree of affordability in the project.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she was happy to support the project, which she said also helps meet the council’s climate objectives.

“When you put more people on transportation corridors — and the Humboldt Avenue bike lanes are a transportation corridor — and you put more people closer to goods and services, more people closer to parks and village centres, that reduces carbon pollution because people are in some senses already where they need to be, or close to where they need to be,” Helps said.

Kerr said once all permits are granted, tenants will be given four months’ notice. He estimated the project could be underway in 10 to 12 months.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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