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Downtown Victoria business centre to take on new look

Having acquired the old credit union building at 1001 Blanshard St., Fort Realty has the final piece of the Fort/Blanshard block. Now, sisters Jayne and Suzanne Bradbury have big plans for the downtown block – turning it into a mini-village.

The Bradburys won the bid for the building last month, after it had been left vacant for three years.

Jayne Bradbury said that the next step in their plan is to work with the city to change the zoning of the building, which currently may only be used as an office or call centre. Though the process is likely to take eight to 12 months, the sisters hope to have pop-up shops or other temporary businesses set up in the meantime.

“There’s nothing as off-putting as a vacant building,” Jayne Bradbury said. “It’s right across from the Royal Theatre, so a lot of tourists see it. It’s not a good representation of what downtown Victoria could be.”

The Bradbury sisters are still unsure what purpose they would like the building to be used for, and are looking to the Victoria Downtown Residents’ Association and nearby business owners and employees for input.

“We really want the tenants we select to satisfy the wants and needs of the people who are already here,” Suzanne Bradbury said.

“This block is technically part of Fairfield, it’s a transition area between residential and commercial,” Jayne Bradbury added. “People work here, and shop here and eat here. One of the things we’ve heard a lot from restauranteurs is that they want to be able to get fresh produce nearby.”

Though Suzanne Bradbury said that there are no plans to knock the building down, at least not within the current decade, there is a lot of work to be done with renovations. Interior repurposing will depend on the tenants’ desires, but exterior renovations will take place in the meantime.

“We already have some ideas for the exterior, it can only improve from how it looks now,” Suzanne Bradbury said. “A lot of moms run their day-to-day errands here, and we want that experience to be pleasurable. Even just some landscaping and paint could help with that.”

The area is bound for an influx of residents once developer David Chard’s Escher building, an 82-unit condominium building, is built just down the road at 838 Broughton St.. The additional residents will have an impact on how the block will function.

“It becomes their backyard, it doesn’t just shut down at six o’clock,” Jayne Bradbury explained.

The Bradbury sisters have already made a few major developments to the block, including repurposing a building formerly used as a convenience store into restaurant space, which currently houses La Taquisa and Be Love Restaurant. The courtyard within the block has also been opened to the public, in hopes that the surrounding tenants will use it for joint events.

Suzanne Bradbury said that a top priority for them is to build on the sustainability of the block. “Bioswale gardens,” which process runoff rainwater from nearby roofs, have already been installed in the courtyard, and are currently being used by Victoria’s Food Eco District to grow herbs.

The proposed mini-village will run from Fort to Broughton along Blanshard Street, and east to the Disability Resource Centre at 817 Fort S. A solid timeline is expected to emerge in six months.

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