Slightly scaled down Telus Ocean building advances, public hearing OK'd

The public will soon get a chance to weigh in on the proposed Telus Ocean building after Victoria council voted Thursday at committee of the whole to send a slightly scaled-down version of the office tower to a public hearing.

Saying it appeared the developers behind the 12-storey project had addressed many of the concerns raised by the city over the last year, Coun. Jeremy Loveday moved that it was time for the public to have its say on the rezoning proposal.

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Loveday said the building, to be located on a triangle-shaped lot at Douglas and Humboldt streets, will be a catalyst for economic development downtown and will be a hub for small local business, especially in the high-tech sector.

The project the public will be considering has been modified in response to city concerns.

The building has been reduced slightly in size, by about 10,000 square feet and slightly re-aligned. It will now extend the ­Humboldt Street plaza, address tree preservation and ­landscaping issues and has removed a digital screen that had been included in earlier plans.

The project has been rotated 4.5 metres off the north end of the Douglas Street property

line to improve the view ­corridor from the north approaches and allow an expanded sidewalk with trees.

It has also lowered the Telus sign from the top of the eastern face of the building and included wooden finishing on the eastern face to reduce the amount of glass.

Though it may be smaller, it remains too ambitious for the site, Coun. Geoff Young said.

“Overall I still think the size, mass and height is greater than this sensitive site can accommodate,” he said.

“It’s still a bit overwhelming.”

Coun. Ben Isitt, who also voted against sending it to a public hearing, said the project still overreaches in terms of height and massing.

Isitt said the site is a sensitive area given its proximity to the Empress Hotel, tourist precinct and a major residential ­development.

“Personally, I think this area of downtown needs a light touch,” he said, adding taller and more dense projects should be located further north in the downtown.

Telus announced in 2020 it had agreed to purchase the city-owned Apex site north of Victoria’s Crystal Garden for $8.1 million and possibly another $1.1 million depending on the final proposal approved after the rezoning process.

The company says the ­building will serve as regional headquarters for about 250 people and house an ­innovation ­centre that will ­showcase the latest technologies.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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