Urban Core Ventures’ proposed residential/commercial building at Cook and Oliphant streets will go to public hearing.

Cook Street development inches closer to approval

Urban Core Ventures has cleared another hurdle for approval for its proposed residential/commercial building at Cook and Oliphant streets.

Urban Core Ventures has cleared another hurdle in its two-and-a-half year struggle for approval for its proposed residential/commercial building at Cook and Oliphant streets.

Victoria city council sent the revised proposal to public hearing Thursday.

It’s been a long road for the project.

In the most recent setback in July the project had been approved to go to public hearings in a committee of the whole meeting, only to have council pull the rug out from under the developer only a few hours later, instructing  the developer to address some resident’s concerns before bringing it back to committee.

The move came after council received letters from 13 businesses in opposition to the project and a petition from about 100 area residents, said Urban Core Ventures spokesperson, Meribeth Burton.

“We were certainly disheartened by what happened in July, but we sat down with some of the most vocal detractors of the project and worked very hard to resolve the issues. We made a number of changes and compromises, and came back with what I think is a better design for both parties,” said Burton.

The new, five-storey project design has addressed the most contentious of the issues by reducing the height of the structure by another 3.3 feet to 54 feet (16.46 metres), just seven feet higher than a current four-storey building in the Cook Street Village.

In addition, the developers have redesigned the ground floor plan. The new plan will accommodate one commercial tenant (down from six), and townhouses will be introduced on Oliphant Street with significant green space and a 25 foot landscaped buffer between the development and the residential area to the west of the project.

The total green space has been increased to 32 per cent of the footprint, up from seven per cent in the original plan. Surface parking has been reduced to two spaces, down from the original 18.

On the upper floors of the structure, trellises have been added to soften the building’s appearance.

When constructed, the planned development will provide a total of 53 new homes, 17 of which will be rental units with nine of those rental units offered at 10 per cent below market value.

“In an environment where there is a lack of housing and an almost zero vacancy rate, we feel very good about creating some housing alternatives in Cook Street Village,” said Burton.

Mayor Lisa Helps is pleased with the project’s success and the fact it is moving on to public hearing.

“There is a very vocal minority of opposition to this project, and I think the developers have taken into account a lot of their concerns. Now the project can proceed to public hearing where we can have a good look at the project. Then we’ll have a hard decision to make,” said Helps, adding the responsibility of council is to take into account the desires of current residents, while realizing they also represent all of the roughly 85,000 people in Victoria. She acknowledged her role as having the courage to consider the future and what’s best for Cook Street Village in the long run.

“I know the developer has gone along with vocal opponents and removed much of the commercial component, for example. I’m not convinced it’s the best thing for Cook Street in the future. I guess we’ll have to look at that,” she said.