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Developers, province reach deal in James Bay 'South Block' project

About six acres of government-owned land behind the B.C. legislature will be redeveloped under an agreement with two developers and the province.

Victoria-based Jawl Development Corp. and Vancouver-based Concert Properties have put in a successful bid to purchase the South Block, located between Government and Menzies streets and Superior and Michigan streets in James Bay.

Financial details will be released when the deal is finalized in March, said Jamie Edwardson, communications director with the Ministry of Finance.

"We received a number of high-quality submissions from well-known developers and feel we're getting good value for the property," Edwardson said.

The current plan includes two office buildings on the site, and the province has promised to lease 180,000 square feet of office space upon completion. The development will be guided by the Victoria Accord, an agreement between the City of Victoria and the province that dates back to 1993 and ensures intergovernmental collaboration on provincial real estate deals.

In a statement, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the sale will guarantee high-quality, government jobs stay in Victoria and help boost the local economy.

"Right now, the block is a bit of an eyesore but the new development will rejuvenate the area, opening up new space for government, as well as private sector opportunities," de Jong said. "This is a prime example of how we can maximize the benefits of an under-utilized property to help spur economic activity and benefit a community.”

Marg Gardiner, James Bay Neighbourhood Association president, said local residents have been waiting 20 years for the build-out of the "parking lots" south of the legislature.

She applauded the province for leasing back a significant portion of the office space, which helped entice developers during the bidding process.

The results of a resident survey, undertaken by the JBNA to garner opinion on South Block development, will be posted at jbna.org in the coming weeks, Gardiner said.

"Overall, residents are receptive of a build-out of South Block and see the project as a positive and potentially transforming development of James Bay," she said.

The Queen's Printer building will remain on South Block, while several heritage properties will be relocated to a nearby parcel of government-owned land on Kingston Street.

A community garden off Michigan Street will also be closed, but the JBNA is working to secure new allotment gardens in the neighbourhood, Gardiner said.

"The build-out will take five to seven years, but we understand there's  a certain commitment for the (first phase) to be built by 2017," she said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

 

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