Telus announces plans to build ‘architecturally significant’ building in downtown Victoria

Telus announces plans to build 'architecturally significant' building in downtown Victoria
WatchA brand new landmark building will be coming to downtown Victoria. A 9- to 10- storey building that will tie into the city's seaside roots and will become a new space for innovation. Jasmine Bala tells us more about TELUS Ocean.

Telus has announced plans to construct a “landmark” business hub building in downtown Victoria.

According to a press release issued by the City of Victoria, Telus is proposing to build an “architecturally significant” commercial-retail building on the Apex site, a 27,790 square-foot triangular vacant parcel located between Douglas Street and Humboldt Street, in the city’s downtown. It will primarily be office space for Telus employees, but will also include an innovation hub, retail stores and restaurants.

Telus has also agreed to purchase the Apex site property from the city for $8.1 million. However, under the agreement, Telus could pay up to an additional $1.1 million more for the property, depending on the final proposal that is submitted and approved as part of the rezoning, according to the city.

“I think Telus’ investment today emphasizes that even though Victoria is small compared to Calgary and Vancouver, there’s a lot going on here,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Telus has built other innovative, landmark buildings in those Canadian cities. In Vancouver, they built the Telus Garden and Calgary has the 6-storey Sky tower.

Terms of the final agreement between Telus and the Victoria were approved in March, according to the release.

Dubbed Telus Ocean, the “leading-edge” building would become the telecommunication company’s regional headquarters for approximately 250 employees, as well as an “innovation hub” showcasing advanced communications and information technology.

“I think we can expect it will be beautiful and compelling and not a box,” said Helps. “It’s an anchor site, so it should have an anchor building.”

Telus will be working with Victoria-based Aryze Developments as a community development partner, according to the city release, which notes that the two companies are seeking to bring forward an “architecturally-significant project” that will create an opportunity for Victoria to be at the “forefront of new technology.”

Although the designs haven’t been finalized, the ocean theme of the building will focus on the city’s seaside roots.

“There will be an ocean design as part of it and in fact, the lobby will be very special,” said Mel Cooper, the chair of Telus Victoria Community Board. “We have a great artist who is preparing how it will look. People will want to visit it because it will be that kind of [design that] draws you into the building.”

Cooper added the building will be nine to 10 storeys tall, and although he can’t share more details about what it will look like, “It will be awesome and it’ll be a great contribution to the area here,” he said.

“Our development will contribute significantly to Victoria’s economic strength, culture and social vitality. Notably, Telus Ocean will inject millions of dollars into the community and create local, family-supporting jobs while showcasing Telus’ advanced communications technologies and environmental innovation in a way never seen before in Victoria,” said Darren Entwistle, president and chief executive officer of Telus.

The sale of the property is based on the condition that Telus applies for rezoning within 18 months of executing its agreement with the city and that their proposal reaches the city’s permitting stage.

Also, as part of the newly announced agreement between the Telus and the city, the two will split the costs of environmental and geotechnical costs to remediate the site, with Victoria taxpayers kicking in $2.37 million to help cover the costs. In turn, Telus will assume all liabilities and responsibility for environmental remediation, according to the city.

“Telus Ocean will help us to build a stronger, more resilient economy. It is another example of the confidence leading companies are showing in moving to Victoria or expanding their operations here. This major new business and innovation centre will create significant long-term economic and community benefits, pump added vitality and diversity into the heart of our downtown commercial district and support hundreds of new family-sustaining jobs,” Helps said in a press release.

The City of Victoria has been planning to redevelop the Apex site at 749-767 Douglas Street for years and issued a Request for Expressions of Interest in April 2017.

The city envisions the Apex site to becoming a “commercial anchor for Douglas Street south” and says it received six responses to its RFEI and that Telus’ proposal was the highest scoring. 

The Apex site was home to a furniture manufacturer and later a laundry plant before the structures were demolished and the property was paved. Currently, two car rental companies operate on the property. 

Construction is expected to begin as early as summer 2021, with a completion date of 2024.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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