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Traffic concerns mar development plan

BlueSky Properties is looking to build a four- to six-storey mixed use building at 1002 Pandora Ave.
An artist’s rendition of the development planned for 1002 Pandora Ave.

A proposal to redevelop St. Andrew’s elementary school land has come a long way in the past year, but nearby residents are still concerned about traffic flow and pedestrian access.

Vancouver-based BlueSky Properties is looking to build a four- to six-storey mixed use building at 1002 Pandora Ave., on the northeast corner of Vancouver Street. The current proposal calls for 211 residential units and about 4,500 square metres of retail space.

Since first coming to council in January 2013, the developer has put in “a lot of work” to address community concerns: decreasing height on Mason Street to four storeys and including a cycling lane along Vancouver Street, said Tim Hewett, North Park Neighbourhood Association president.

“We’re not shy of development, but we want to make sure it’s done in the right way and that it represents community use and values,” Hewett said.

In 2010, Island Catholic Schools announced it was consolidating three elementary schools into two, by relocating students and staff from St. Andrew’s to St. Joseph’s elementary in Saanich or St. Patrick’s elementary near Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Since its first proposal for the former school land, BlueSky representatives have twice met with North Park residents to garner design input.

“One big thing for us is permeability, creating accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than degrading Vancouver and Mason streets with more traffic flow,” Hewett said.

The current proposal moves underground parking access from Pandora Street to Mason Street. With a large portion of commercial space earmarked for a grocery store, traffic could become a big problem on the residential street, Hewett said.

On Thursday, Victoria’s planning and land use committee voted to move the St. Andrew’s application to public hearing after a four-hour discussion.

Hewett applauded council and the developer for responding to community concerns throughout the process, but said the project isn’t perfect yet.

“Neighbourhood associations, we’re all volunteer. It’s frustrating when we put efforts in and nothing is done, but it’s encouraging when we put in these requests and we see results. The developers really have come a long way. So we’ll see how this next process goes.”

Council still needs to approve the development and rezoning application for public hearing at an upcoming council meeting.