James Bay residents concerned redevelopment project could cause ‘trademark’ trees to be cut down

James Bay residents concerned redevelopment project could cause 'trademark' trees to be cut down

Residents in James Bay are raising concerns about a proposed redevelopment project that could see a row of popular trees removed.

Vancouver-based Primex Investments is proposing to replace the Village Green apartments at 110 Menzies St. in James Bay with a brand new six-storey apartment complex.

According to a rezoning application submitted by the company to the City of Victoria, a total of 137 units — 89 one-bedroom units, 33 two-bedroom units, 14 three-bedrooms and one studio unit — of rental housing would be constructed on the corner of Niagara and Menzies streets.

Three existing buildings on the property would be torn down to make way for the new complex. There would also be an underground parkade and a new sidewalk which would result in the removal of seven plum blossom trees on Menzies Street — something that isn’t sitting well with a handful of residents in the area.

“They beautify our neighbourhood, they are a trademark of James Bay and we hate to lose them,” says James Bay resident, Mariann Burka.

“This is a time of great development in this city, in this area, and it comes at an environmental cost,” adds Ira Shorr, a resident of James Bay.

In a letter to city council, Primex says the existing apartment buildings, which are home to 45 affordable units, are suffering from livability issues, such as roof leaks, structural issues, and hazardous materials and the cost of repairing them isn’t economically viable. The Vancouver-based company also promises to plant 68 new trees for the 23 total that would be cut down, but whether they will re-plant the seven plum blossoms is still to be discussed.

“After the long wet winter these are the first trees to bloom and it really heralds the beginning of the majestic spring season in Victoria,” says Renn Butler, who lives in James Bay.

Homes For Living YYJ, a group of community volunteers that advocate for more affordable housing in the region, said in a statement that the new complex “fits with the official community plan and is consistent with the heights and density of the area, and would significantly increase rental units in the neighbourhood and help diversify housing options.”

Primex has already started current tenant relocation and is proposing to contribute $75,000 to the city’s affordable housing reserve fund. The company currently has five rental properties in Victoria, including a 77-unit apartment building on Yates Street, and has three other development proposals in the works.

A public hearing is set for Thursday, March 24 to allow residents to further share their concerns about not only the new complex but the future of the iconic blossoms.

An artist rendering of a proposed 137-unit purpose-built rental apartment building in James Bay. (Primex/City of Victoria)

The 137-unit purpose-built rental apartment building in James Bay would feature a courtyard area for residents. (Primex/City of Victoria)

The project would result in the removal of a handful of beloved trees on Menzies Street, which has upset neighbours in the area. (Primex/City of Victoria)

Hannah LepineHannah Lepine
Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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