The Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites on Quebec Street is the subject of a redevelopment proposal to be heard at Victoria council’s committee of the whole Thursday morning. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

UPDATED: Victoria’s Harbour Towers Hotel could be transformed into rental apartment building

Project heads to public hearing, pending council approval

A proposal to transform the former Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites and its 219 units into rental apartments is likely heading to public hearing.

The rezoning proposal, which was heard at city council’s committee of the whole this morning (June 22), would change the usage of the 13-storey building at 354 Quebec St. in James Bay to fully residential, from its current limited transient district (T-1) zoning, which does not allow for multi-family residential use.

The Harbour Towers building was constructed in 1972 and was originally designed as an apartment complex, but later became a hotel. It is currently operating with 189 hotel rooms and more than 33,000 square feet of meeting and office space on the bottom floors.

The first two floors, currently housing the lobby and Vic’s Restaurant, would be redeveloped to allow for an interior courtyard and residential units. A reduction in off-street parking from 307 spaces to 179 is largely due to the inclusion of 219 secure Class 1 bike stalls. An interior bicycle repair station for residents is also part of the plan.

The parking ratio raised hackles when developer Omicron presented its proposal at a James Bay Community Association neighbourhood meeting last September. Attendees worried about the potential for added traffic on nearby Oswego and Superior streets, but many liked that the project added rental housing to a market sorely in need of rental units.

The city’s planning department supports sending the proposal to public hearing, writing in a staff report that “the proposal is consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP) in terms of providing residential housing in the area and supplying a range of housing types and tenures.”

In the staff recommendation is a requirement for the applicant to sign a housing agreement which would guarantee the 219 units remain as rental accommodation for a minimum of 20 years, and ensure that any future strata bylaws do not prevent owners from rental their units.

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