Victoria passes Arts & Innovation district rezoning to next step with 4 pages of alterations

Victoria passes Arts & Innovation district rezoning to next step with 4 pages of alterations
An aerial view of one of the blocks of the proposed Arts and Innovation district.

The plans to rezone a section of downtown Victoria to form an Arts and Innovation district were presented to committee of the whole with two choices: send back to staff to continue working with the developer on a plan to align it with the current plan for the area, or send it to the next step with four pages of proposed amendments.

The COTW chose to send it forward to the next step, which is contingent on the developer implementing the amendments to the original plan.

Reliance Properties applied to turn what was the Capital Iron building and neighbouring lots into an Arts and Innovation District, including a number of housing units.

READ PREVIOUS: Proposed Arts & Innovation District aims to bring more arts and marine industry to Victoria’s downtown

Staff presented the application to council, but noted concerns because this area is currently zoned for industrial use.

“In addition to a housing crisis, Victoria faces an industrial land shortage, and reducing developable industrial land base by over half a million square feet, while also proposing residential uses next to and within an impactful building core, doesn’t serve the crisis well,” said Miko Betanzo, senior planner with the city,

“Therefore referring the application back to staff to improve its alignment with existing city policies and emerging city policies is recommended.”

After councillors had a chance to ask questions of staff, the alternate recommended motion was proposed. This sends the proposal to a public hearing, once the developer makes a number of changes to the application.

For the alternate motion, there were just over four pages of changes that staff recommended be made to the proposal before it moves ahead to the next step.

The original application would see two blocks on either side of Store Street be redeveloped and turned into commercial and residential.

These two sections were up for rezoning, with the goal of creating a new arts and innovation district in Victoria. (City of Victoria)

The majority of these two areas are zoned for “core employment” except the bottom half of block B, which allows for residential.

Block A is currently primarily industrial with some office and residential. The original rezoning proposal changes that to being primarily offices with some residential and the smallest portion of industrial.

Block B is currently almost entirely industrial with a small amount of office. The original rezoning proposed to eliminate the industrial entirely to be mostly residential, some office and some cultural.

Councillors noted that in the lead up to this coming before the committee of the whole, some concerns were raised about the proposed height of the buildings, so amendments were approved unanimously to change the height to 14 storeys, instead of the between 15 and 20 proposed in the initial application.

“That is moving closer in the direction that would be more consistent with policy and help to ameliorate some of the negative impacts that I think we were identifying,” Betanzo said after the amendment was introduced.

The original plan includes preserving three heritage buildings along Store Street, including Capital Iron, Valhalla Pure and a small brick building, as well as the construction of about 12 buildings that will be a mix of industrial, commercial and residential hubs.

The approximate 900-square-foot plan, designed by architect Franc D’Ambrosio, will take over the existing ­Capital Iron parking lot, the waterfront behind the heritage buildings and replace current retail stores along Government St.

It includes public access to the waterfront, retail spaces, art studios and industrial buildings. Both rental apartments and owned condominiums are also expected to be built.

-With files from CHEK’s Mackenzie Read

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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