WRITTEN BY: Darron Kloster for the Times Colonist. Jan 8, 2022.
The province is partnering with a private developer to build nearly 500 units of supportive and affordable housing on Douglas Street.
The half-city-block site, containing the former White Spot Restaurant and Capital City Centre Hotel, could see a cluster of buildings as high as 20 storeys, with housing for working and lower-income residents, office space, a grocery store, retail shops, restaurants, a day-care centre and a 9,000-square foot plaza at the corner of Douglas and Caledonia streets.
The proposal also includes a 90-unit supportive-housing building to be constructed in the parking lot directly across Douglas Street at 722 and 726 Discovery St., where those sheltering in the former Capital City Centre Hotel will be transitioned before the White Spot and hotel are demolished.
B.C. Housing is working on the venture with Chard Developments Ltd., which bought the White Spot site for $7.5 million in November.
The province bought the 96-room hotel and parking lot in April for $25 million, and has been operating it as a shelter under the management of Our Place Society since October 2020.
Plans for the development are still on the drawing board, Byron Chard, president and CEO of Chard Developments, said Friday.
He said the company will start talking with stakeholders and community groups and working with city staff before making a formal presentation on rezoning to Victoria council, possibly in the fall.
The number of buildings and heights is still being determined, said Chard, adding they’re looking to be at or under 20 storeys, following the city’s Official Community Plan. South on Douglas at Townline’s Hudson Place block, buildings are higher and situated on land that’s at a higher elevation.
Work on the supportive housing project on Discovery Street could start in about 18 months. The larger project at 710 Caledonia, 1961 Douglas St. and
722 and 732 Caledonia would follow and take up to three years, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs, said Chard.
Attorney General David Eby, the minister in charge of B.C. Housing, urged Victoria city council to support the project.
“It means long-term permanent housing for people who haven’t had homes for a long time. It means more affordable housing for workers and people who live in the community. And it means rental housing that’s desperately needed in Victoria that takes pressure off of the lower-income rental housing in the community,” Eby said Friday.
He said the Capital City Centre project will help “community members of all income levels live in the city they call home,” rather than have to move away to find affordable housing.
“This redevelopment converts an aging hotel into more than 400 new affordable homes … It will be a great model to learn from, giving us the kind of housing we need, in a growing community that faces similar challenges in responding to the housing crisis that cities all over are facing.”
About two-thirds of the 400 units would be market and below-market rental units, according to Chard, with the rest condominiums for sale.
The planned grocery store would be 30,000 square feet and there would be about 40,000 square feet of office space. Retailers and restaurants would have ample patio spaces, as well, said Chard.
Chard called the development “unique to Vancouver Island,” with a private developer and the province coming together to provide much-needed housing options in a region in the grips of a housing crisis.
“It’s really the first of its kind, incorporating supportive housing with affordable housing for the workforce, and it creates a unique community.”
He said the project and its spacious public square will improve the area on the edge of downtown where many people work, and a block from Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.