Seniors housing project heads to public hearing

A project that could bring more than 130 rental units for seniors to downtown Victoria will go to a public hearing.

A project that could bring more than 130 rental units for seniors to downtown Victoria will go to a public hearing.

The proposed project at 701 Belleville St., formerly the Crystal Court Motel, would be a 15-storey mixed-use building including 173 residential units, 131 of which will be market rental units for seniors, 42 condos, and a retail unit on the ground floor. There will also be a five-storey podium and a rooftop common amenity area.

The roughly 39,000-square-foot site, which is bordered by Blanshard, Belleville and Douglas streets, would also include 19 surface parking stalls and 81 underground parking stalls, accessible through a driveway on Belleville Street, and bicycle storage for 18 bikes.

Council voted to move the project to public hearing, after a lengthy discussion Thursday morning.

“Staff have carefully considered all of the complexities of where this development sits,” said Coun. Margaret Lucas.

“It’s trying to find the right development. We have to find something that works well in the neighbourhood. . . But I think it’s ready to go to a public hearing.”

However, the project wasn’t without controversy. Most councillors expressed concerns, specifically with the lack of affordable units, the affect it will have on the neighbouring St. Ann’s Academy, and the pedestrian accessibility of the area, with many arguing the corner of Blanshard and Belleville streets is particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross the street without a stop sign or traffic light.

Councillors Pam Madoff and Ben Isitt voted against the motion.

“It’s our job to look at the bigger picture and beyond the property lines and look at what our city looks like as a whole,” said Madoff, noting the impact it could also have on the academy.

“It’s going to be this massiveness of built form . . . I find it sad that for such a prominent site that this is the best we can do. We articulated our concerns, we hope when it comes to public hearing it will be addressed.”

Isitt still believes the project doesn’t offer enough affordable housing for all income levels.

“I could stomach the height and the impact on St. Ann’s Academy. This is a very sensitive site,” he said. “We need to start moving forward with housing affordability now. It’s hurting the economy.”