WATCH: It is an area of downtown Victoria where hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable tend to congregate and now it’s slated for major development. April Lawrence reports.
Our Place serves hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable people every day, many of them with mental health and addictions issues. Next to it is the city’s only permanent safe consumption site and together they are the hub of the 900-block of Pandora Ave.
But right now there are four large residential developments either being proposed or under construction that would completely change the look of the block.
Just down the street, the Bosa Properties development is almost finished. It will have 200 rental units as well as a Save-on-Foods grocery store on the main floor.
Directly across the street from Our Place, a 10-storey building with 150 rental units will go before city council in just a few weeks.
Right next to the safe consumption site, a 16-storey rental tower with commercial space is in the planning stages and beside it, a 15-storey 100 unit apartment building is being proposed by local developer Cox Developments.
“We just felt that this is where the opportunity was, where people were going,” said owner Dan Cox.
Cox says he doesn’t think people will be put off by the two social service agencies in the area.
“Everyone that lives here and sees this neighbourhood for what it is and where it’s going I think that stigma goes away right away,” he said.
But those who run Our Place hope any new neighbours come aware of what they’re signing up for.
“Downtown can be an exciting place but you’re probably also going to see some things you might not see in the suburbs,” said Our Place Director of Communications Grant McKenzie.
Earlier this week, an altercation in the middle of the road ended with a man jumping on a police car before being taken into custody. There is also the potential for vandalism, discarded needles and noise.
But McKenzie says violence outside their building is rare.
“There really aren’t very very many incidents at all of the violence against civilians it really just doesn’t happen,” McKenzie said.
While there will no doubt be challenges, the hope from both sides is that everyone will be able to co-exist because Our Place says after 50 years of serving people at that location, it has no plan of going anywhere.