Burnside school housing project advances to public hearing

A proposal to build two apartment buildings with a daycare and outdoor plaza on the playing field behind the former Burnside Elementary School took a step forward Thursday.

Victoria councillors voted unanimously to send the project to a public hearing, saying it has everything that the city is looking for in a new housing development.

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“I just find this very exciting,” said Coun. Stephen Andrew, who lives in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood.

He expressed reservations about the loss of green space and the impact on street parking if the development goes ahead at 496-498 Cecelia Rd. and 3130 Jutland Rd. “But this really, I think, ticks nearly every box that I would be looking for for a development in that neighborhood.”

Pacifica Housing and TL Housing Solutions plan to work with B.C. Housing to build 88 affordable rental units in a five-storey and a four-storey building on the city-owned land. There will be a 59-space daycare, after-school program, ground-floor fitness studio, art classroom space and underground parking for 98 vehicles and 142 bikes.

One in five units will be deeply subsidized for households earning less than $26,000 a year, city documents show. Half the units will go to households with low to moderate incomes, topping out at $84,500; and 30 per cent will serve moderate to above-moderate household incomes up to $113,000 a year.

More than half the units will be two- or three-bedroom apartments suitable for families.

The Burnside Gorge Community Association will operate the daycare and the after-school spaces.

Avery Stetski, who chairs the association’s board, said there’s a lot of support in the neighbourhood for the housing project and its amenities.

“The landscaping and the community areas that are developed are wonderful,” he said. “There’s seating there. It’ll be a nice community gathering spot.”

Coun. Marianne Alto, who serves as council liaison to the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood, said she’s hearing the same thing from residents.

“I think that this is a package that meets so many of our objectives for Burnside-Gorge and for the city in general, that it’s absolutely supportable,” she said. “I’m delighted to see it finally on our table at a place where we’re ready to move forward and actually get the thing built.”

Carolina Ibarra, chief executive officer of Pacifica Housing, said in an interview that it’s gratifying to see such strong support for affordable housing, and she attributed the project’s positive reviews to the number and diversity of housing types being proposed.

“On top of that, we have childcare which we know has been much-needed for a long time, but it’s going to be essential to our post-pandemic recovery,” she said.

Ibarra said the project’s timing depends on receiving necessary approvals from the city. If that happens relatively soon, construction could begin this summer with completion in late 2022.

“We already have the daycare funding committed,” she said. “As soon as we get all the approvals, we’re ready to move really quickly.”


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