New plan pitched for Northern Junk site on Victoria’s harbour

Proposal for 47 units, commercial space would incorporate 1860s warehouses

New scaled-down plans that would incorporate two warehouses dating to the 1860s are being pitched for the Northern Junk site near the Johnson Street Bridge.

After seeing lack of support for three earlier designs, developer Reliance Properties is proposing a project with 47 residential rental units and commercial space, hoping this latest plan for the waterfront property will win approval at city hall.

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The new plan avoids the complexities that came with previous proposals, said Reliance president Jon Stovell. The site is on Wharf Street on the south side of the Johnson Street Bridge. On the north side of the bridge is the Janion, another Reliance project incorporating a historic building.

Under the new Northern Junk plan, the site’s two old warehouses would form the base of a new development.

They would be separated by an existing open-air walkway, with a new connected building built above them for residential units. Residential space would cover 36,534 square feet.

Stovell said this would be an “adaptive reuse” of the old buildings, which would be restored to serve as commercial space, likely for food and beverage operations, topped by residential.

Artist's rendering of the new plan for the Northern Junk site, as seen from Wharf Street. April 2019 - Dialog Design

Plans call for 9,411 square feet of commercial space.

The units would be built as market rental but it is too soon to know the rates, Stovell said.

The wood-frame structure would be six storeys on the waterfront side and five storeys on the Wharf Street side.

Its design would reflect the character of Victoria’s Old Town, with red brick on the exterior of the northern section, and an inset mural, Stovell said. The mural design has not yet been determined. The southern section of the new rental space would have an exterior of grey-coloured terra cotta tile.

A glass atrium would wrap around and protect a portion of the southern-most warehouse, Stovell said.

With the old buildings, “we are keeping all the interior walls and exterior walls. Most of the walls will still be outside in the public realm.”

The company will develop the David Foster walkway on its land, he said.

Reliance has a large portfolio of heritage properties in western Canada, he said. “We’ve got a lot of experience in adaptive re-use of heritage buildings and giving them a second lease on life.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she can not comment because she has not seen the proposal.

The Vancouver-based company bought the site in 2010 at the edge of the city’s historic Old Town.

Earlier designs each faced opposition over issues such as height, massing, views and concerns over a contemplated purchase of a piece of city land.

None went as far as a public hearing.

Reliance has scrapped the idea of buying city land, Stovell said.

“The scheme we have now is really saying, let’s reduce the complexity and the scale of the project and the anxiety that people were having about selling city land and closing public space,” he said.

Development will be contained to the site held by Reliance.

A rezoning application will be submitted “very soon” to the city, Stovell said.

This plan is about half the size of the previous design, which was pulled prior to the fall 2018 municipal election.

Parking spaces are not included in the plan.

This proposal does not require an amendment to the area’s Official Community Plan, he said. “It meets all the requirements of the OCP and has a very unique yet proven approach to heritage and adaptive re-use, which is building above the existing buildings.”

The height is close to being compliant with city rules and its height conforms to the Official Community Plan, he said.

“So there’s a lot less things for council to struggle with.”

It is too soon to say what the construction costs would be, Stovell said.

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