Two projects have advanced in the capital city that could continue extending the downtown northward with housing units for a range of incomes.
The first project, considered at committee of the whole on Oct. 6, involves a development along Douglas Street, between Caledonia Avenue and Discovery Street, with a commercial podium below three residential towers ranging from 16 to 21 storeys.
The proposal’s approximately 45o total units range from studios to three bedrooms and will have below-market-rate rentals alongside rentals and condos for those with median incomes.
The proposal seeks variances for height – city plans envision buildings around 20 storeys in the area – and for a reduced number of required parking spaces. It has support from the city’s business groups, but the Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Association expressed concern about the proposed height, density and more. City staff say it aligns with goals around housing, community well-being, transportation, employment, sustainability and food security.
The city sees potential in the project beyond affordable and moderately-priced living. It would allow people working downtown to walk or take a short cycle to their destination, add better signal and street crosswalk infrastructure to the area and provide a grocery store to a part of the city that currently lacks one. Plans for the site also include a 37-child daycare for at least a decade plus office and retail space.
The development includes a new 802-square-metre public plaza at Caledonia Avenue and Douglas Street. That plaza would also flow into a renewed bus stop and shelter on Douglas Street, which is seen as important to expanding transit use and creating an easy link to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena and Royal Athletic Park just blocks away.
But to make way for the new development, the Capital City Centre Hotel – bought by the province during the pandemic to house people experiencing homelessness – would need to be torn down. That’s why, to support the 85 transitional units that would be lost, the development is being considered in conjunction with BC Housing’s plans to first build an eight-story, 90-unit supportive building directly north across Discovery Street.
The 722 and 726 Discovery St. properties are currently used as a surface parking lot. Councillors questioned the configuration of the building as current plans would impact three Garry Oak trees. Council directed that both developments look into adjustments before their respective public hearings to preserve current trees or ensure added trees can stay in place long term.
While the planned look of the BC housing building has already been revised at the city’s request, council voted to once again have planners try to make it look less “institutional” in order to make it integrate into the neighbourhood in a way that pleases the public and makes tenants feel at home.
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