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Victoria developer’s crowd-sourced design sees gas stations as distant memory

Block x Block campaign centres the general public in re-envisioning their city
Victoria-based Aryze Developments has released the concept for its latest Block x Block campaign asking the public to envision new uses for city spaces. (Courtesy of Aryze Development)

While sealing deals with the City of Victoria to make fundamental changes to the look of downtown, Aryze Developments has made a goal of consulting the public on ideas for new and provocative developments.

The Victoria-based developer’s three “Block x Block” campaigns have directly asked local residents to conceive building and public space ideas, which would then be turned over to architects to design and present. Although the designs are entirely hypothetical, “the idea is that we want to invite everyday citizens into the process of city building,” said Aryze communications manager Melanie Ransome.

The latest development campaign looked at the potential of a lot at 2670 Douglas St., longtime home of a Petro-Canada gas station.

“A local resident highlighted this triangular lot’s potential to become a true landmark as a gateway to the downtown core,” Ransome said. Based on the suggestion, a proposed apartment neighbourhood was designed featuring a central green space and triangular buildings.

The design architects – Toronto-based Diamond and Schmitt – are behind several buildings across the country including Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Toronto’s Globe and Mail Centre and Aryze’s recently council-approved Telus Ocean building planned for Douglas and Humboldt streets.

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Their vision for 2670 Douglas St. sees “sustainability as a primary driver,” said Diamond and Schmitt principal David Dow. Per the local resident’s suggestion, the neighbourhood would incorporate decentralized energy generation to be completely self-sufficient. Ransome said Aryze supports a future “where gas stations become distant memories, fossilized in time.”

Although they’re unlikely to result in real constructions, the Block x Block campaigns “did open up a dialogue, in the same way COVID has … to bring new contexts for us to explore in terms of how we use our space,” Ransome said. “It reinforces and amplifies the fact that there are people all around our city who look at spaces that they interact with every day and think, ‘I feel like this could be better utilized.’”

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