The Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria is in the early stages of rezoning some of its property for mixed housing, which could hold thousands of residents.
The downtown cathedral has a long history dating back to the 1860s and is the episcopal seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia. It also stands as a popular tourist attraction in the city, but now the cathedral wants to become a permanent home for around 1,500 people.
“The future does not look like the past, and the needs the churches were addressing in the past are changing. So we know housing is an absolute priority in the community,” said Kaeley Wiseman, principal of Wiser Projects.
Wiseman is consulting on behalf of the Anglican Church, which owns the property that Christ Church Cathedral sits on. She and the church have been working for three years to propose rezoning some of its property into mixed housing, including rentals and permanent ownerships.
“It really depends on what development partner comes to the table when, so it would be in the order of magnitude of three to five hundred units for what we’re planning right now based on the space, the heights, and the density we’re talking about with the city of Victoria,” Wiseman told CHEK News.
Given the church’s historical significance, they plan on preserving much of the greenspace, the church, and the school on the block. The parking lot is the only space being considered for construction at the moment.
‘People aren’t going to church on Sundays anymore’
Other properties in Saanich and Duncan are being considered, and Wiseman says it’s a move that many religious groups are beginning to veer towards.
“I think a lot of these groups are realizing that it’s an aging population,” she said.
“People aren’t going to church on Sundays anymore, they’re experiencing community in different ways. And the Anglican community on the island has been very proactive at looking at what that future might be.”
Costs are undetermined at the moment, but there will need to be at least $30 million allocated for seismic upgrades if the plan goes through.
Shannon Swain frequents the area and says the housing proposal is very welcomed. Having experienced homelessness herself, it could be a lifeline to many.
“I would like to see housing there…because I see there is a need for it,” said Swain.
Roy Poystila believes that the development won’t solve the overall housing crisis.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to make a difference in our current crisis. The entire problem really comes [down to] how much the cost for ownership is, and even just rentals are at an all-time high,” said Poystila.
Consultations with the Fairfield Neighborhood Association will be held at the end of the month, and Wiseman says rezoning applications will be put forward to the City of Victoria in January.
If the project is ultimately approved, it will take at least four years before construction begins.