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Victoria Plaza renos get go-ahead on high-profile downtown corner
Renovations to the Victoria Plaza Hotel are going ahead, but the modern aspects of the plan are not sitting well with heritage advocates in the city.
“We’re certainly disappointed in council’s action in accepting that design,” Hallmark Society president Ken Johnson said after Victoria city council voted six-to-three to rezone the site for the latest proposal, following a public hearing.
“They could have come up with a far better solution to the developer’s problem.”
Johnson said the height and design of the building won’t fit the historical ambiance of the neighbourhood. He worries a pattern is arising where council is more concerned with pushing projects ahead than they are with preserving the spirit of downtown Victoria.
“They could have done a more modern design that incorporated some traditional elements, such as brickwork and a cornice and less glass,” Johnson said. “I sometimes feel staff have all become enamoured (with) developers.”
Approved changes to the building at 603 and 607 Pandora Ave. include the addition of two setback floors of residential dwellings – bringing it up to six – plus a central plaza and renovations to the building facade.
“I think the majority of council felt it was an acceptable blend, recognizing that the heritage features of the building itself are not that expressive,” Mayor Dean Fortin said.
Last Thursday’s public hearing drew comments from more than a dozen people.
The hotel building has been home to a number of businesses since the Songhees Grill opened in 1911. It was formerly home to Monty’s Showroom Pub, a strip club which closed in January.
The design calls for 106 mostly bachelor units and commercial space at street level.
As part of the approval process, council secured an agreement whereby the strata council cannot prohibit rentals. Fortin hopes the agreement will avoid vacant downtown residential units in the winter months, a problem encountered by many tourism-oriented cities.
“That’s important for downtown and it’s important for the social sustainability to our communities,” he said. “What we don’t want is people buying (units) and then living there two months of the year.”