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Victoria's Janion building targeted for redevelopment

The interior staircase of the Janion building, set to be redeveloped after 35 years of vacancy, appears to be solid. - Photo courtesy Reliance Properties
The interior staircase of the Janion building, set to be redeveloped after 35 years of vacancy, appears to be solid.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Reliance Properties

After 35 years of sitting vacant, the Janion building will be restored.

On Monday, Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties announced the details of his purchase of the decaying historic building at 1612-1614 Store St., as well as waterfront property behind the building that is owned by Transport Canada.

"This morning we wrote to the city and withdrew the demolition permit application that was submitted by the previous owner," said Stovell to a burst of applause.

He plans to rehabilitate the building to feature ground-floor retail and live-work studios. He also plans to build "well over" 100 so-called microlofts – small, self-contained and relatively affordable units.

Stovell said he was eyeing the Janion before he purchased the historic Northern Junk buildings on the other side of the Johnson Street Bridge in 2010. The deal wasn't economical, however, until he secured the waterfront land from Transport Canada.

That parcel is zoned for a similar level of development as the Janion property and Stovell said he does not intend to submit a rezoning application for more density.

To make the development viable, he is counting on securing a property tax exemption under the city's program for heritage restorations.

Project architect Paul Merrick called it a "special day."

"We've all, for years, watched this old dear continue to exist and hoped for the best," he said. "Today we begin on that dream of renewal."

One big question yet to be answered is the future of the David Foster Way.

In late May, the city unveiled the new name for the harbourfront walkway at a star-studded ceremony. The walkway currently stretches from Ogden Point to the Johnson Street Bridge, running adjacent to the waterfront along most sections. The city hopes to continue the walkway all the way to Rock Bay.

Stovell, however, said he's yet to have this conversation with the city.

"That's also an open discussion … whether the waterfront walkway will turn up to the street at that point or even if there is an aspiration to continue on to the north along the water," he said.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Historic structure

• The Janion building dates to 1891 and was used as a hotel for two years before being converted into the headquarters for the E&N Railway.

• The building is 15,000 square feet, plus basement. It features high ceilings, open staircases and fireplaces in some rooms.

• A analysis of the building has found that it has three layers of brick and is structurally sound, despite its outward appearance of decay.

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