Reliance Properties, the developer behind the recently approved Northern Junk project, is reimagining 6.7 acres of Victoria’s downtown in what would be one of the biggest developments in the city. It could include a new home for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Reliance is proposing a transformation at the north end of downtown, from the foreshore of Victoria’s Upper Harbour east to Government Street, between Discovery and Chatham streets. The area includes the historic Capital Iron building and its parking lot, Mark’s Work Wearhouse, and other stores and restaurants.
The site is mostly undeveloped, with just 93,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The intention is to tear down existing buildings, except for three heritage buildings, to make way for industrial and commercial space, offices, residential units, live and work units for artists, and public open space. Three towers at 10, 13 and 17 storeys are proposed.
“I think it’s a real kind of watershed moment for Victoria to get this opportunity to really expand its downtown, for the first time in many decades in a really comprehensive way,” said Reliance president Jon Stovell.
Reliance plans to preserve and rehabilitate the heritage buildings without major changes, Stovell said. That includes the Capital Iron building, its neighbour Valhalla Pure Outfitters, and a small building on Store Street that houses a pottery store. Stovell said they hope Capital Iron will continue to operate in their location, but other businesses would eventually need to relocate.
Reliance has submitted a pre-application to the city to rezone the land. Stovell said the rezoning process could take about a year, and the project could be under construction within two years if approved.
The first phase would focus on developing a 13-storey building with live/work studio spaces for artists above commercial space, a light industrial building that could house a brewery or advanced engineering work, and a new location for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria on the parking lot land across from Capital Iron.
Subsequent phases of the project would see marine-related commercial space and light industrial buildings on the waterfront, with mixed-use buildings for commercial, residential and offices along Store Street, including a 10-storey building. A 17-storey residential building is proposed at the corner of Government and Discovery streets, with another artist live/work space and light industrial or office space nearby.
The city’s Victoria 3.0 plan adopted last year calls for an arts and innovation district in the area, and Reliance’s plan caters to that vision, with live/work studios for artists and a proposal to provide land at the corner of Store and Discovery streets to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Chris Lawless, president of the gallery’s board of directors, said it’s still just an idea, but they see potential in the area as a new home for the art gallery, particularly because of the vision for the area as an arts and innovation district.
“The city is very favourable to this arts and innovation district thing, so having that sort of, let’s say moral support is really encouraging for the gallery,” he said.
The gallery is also considering expanding its current Moss Street location, which would require closing for about 20 months for renovations. Avoiding a long-term closure is one benefit to moving locations, Lawless said.
Note to readers: This story has been corrected. Value Village is not one of the affected businesses.