A heritage building in downtown Victoria could soon get a new lease on life.
Reliance Properties is proposing to transform the former B.C. Power Commission Building at 780 Blanshard St. into a 77-room hotel and 120-unit residential tower through renovation and addition. If realized, the four-storey structure would become a 22-storey, 70.67 metre-tall building.
Constructed in 1950, the existing four-storey art deco-styled concrete building on Blanshard Street served as the B.C. Power Commission headquarters for decades. In recent times, the building was used as an office for the Ministry of Environment until 2020 and is the current home of the Victoria Tool Library, Sweet Pea Gallery, Rockslide Studios and the Ministry of Casual Living. The property itself is located between Burdett Avenue, Fairfield Road and Blanshard Street and is near the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour hotel, Chateau Victoria, DoubleTree and Quality Inn.
According to development plans available on the City of Victoria’s website, Reliance Properties plans on renovating the entire building and constructing an 18-storey tower above an existing section. The 77-room hotel would be located inside the renovated section while the 120 residential units would be located inside the residential tower. It’s not clear whether the units would be purpose-built rental or condo units.
“The team has envisioned a new development that restores an important heritage building, strengthens the urban network, improves the surrounding public realm, renews the adjacent municipal park, provides significantly expanded public transit infrastructure, and ultimately helps create a more vibrant, resilient, and diverse community,” reads a Feb. 24 letter to mayor and council.
Designed by OMB architects, both the hotel and the residential tower would share a front entrance and lobby at the corner of Blanshard Street and Burdett Avenue, with the existing parking lot replaced with a public plaza-style front entry and pick-up drop-off zone.
The 77-room hotel would feature a cafe, food service area, bookable meeting rooms and lounge, rental rooftop space on the fifth floor and a fitness centre, which is available for both guests and residents. The residential tower would have 17 studio units, 34 one-bedroom units and 34 two-bedroom units. There would also be a children’s play area on the rooftop portion on the fifth floor.
Meanwhile, the former B.C. Power Commission building would undergo extensive renovations including the removal of an unoriginal eastern exit stair core that was added to the building in the 1990s, the restoration of the building’s original heritage paint colours. The plan also calls for the retention of “significant character-defining” design such as elements metal window screens and corrugated glass, according to planning documents. A number of environmentally-friendly initiatives are also planned, including landscaped roofs and site planting for on-site stormwater management, low-use water fixtures and high efficiency LED lighting.
In addition to six existing on-site parking stalls, Reliance Properties is planning to provide 25 off-site parking stalls and two additional on-site parking stalls, according to planning documents. Under current city bylaws, they would be anywhere from 68 to 88 stalls short. There would, however, be 148 bike stalls provided.
As part of the development, Penwill Green, a city-owned park located next to the building, would be transformed to feature a stairwell and seating area. A sidewalk would be constructed along Burdett Avenue, connecting to the sidewalk on Fairfield Road.
Reliance Properties is currently in the process of completing a city-required pre-application consultation with the neighbourhood Community Association Land Use Committee (CALUC) prior to submitting a rezoning application. An in-person CALUC meeting regarding the project for nearby residents is scheduled to take place on March 21 at the Parkside Hotel (Urban Ballroom) at 6:00 p.m.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the building was mostly vacant when in fact it has been occupied by numerous artist groups.