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Two Victoria neighbourhoods being considered for heritage designation

They could be the city’s first citizen-led designations
These homes along one side of Robert Street in Victoria West are among a group to be considered at a future public hearing for status as a Heritage Conservation Area by the City of Victoria. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Neighbourhood blocks in James Bay and Victoria West could be the city’s first areas nominated by citizens for heritage designation.

A future public hearing presided over by Victoria council will feature discussion on making Victoria West’s Robert Street a Heritage Conservation Area, while the heritage values of a cluster of homes on Lewis Street, a short dead-end off Dallas Road in James Bay will be examined for their significance.

The Robert Street block includes 14 houses, four of which are already heritage designated and five that could be. The remaining five have been heavily altered or were constructed outside periods of significance.

Staff said the street represents a juxtaposition of Victorian-style homes that were built by upper-class owners and those with more modest designs, built by working-class families during the Second World War.

“The heritage value of the street resides in the contrast between the two house styles that show the evolution of housing accessibility and affordability in Vic West, and the neighbourhood’s evolution from an exclusive area of estates and mansions, to an industrial employment centre with suburbs for working-class families,” said John O’Reilly, a senior heritage planner with the city.

The wartime homes also have heritage significance because they were incentivized by Canada’s first national housing legislation, he added.

“Houses on Robert Street embody what the federal government envisioned to be the minimum standard of living for Canadian families during wartime and the post-war period,” O’Reilly said.

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Guidelines give advice for altering heritage homes with such things as needed replacements, building additions and how to install solar panels and sustainable technology.

The portion being considered on Lewis Street includes 14 century-old houses, with four of them already on the heritage registry. The citizen nomination for the area highlighted the pre-First and Second World War homes’ variety of architecture.

“The tight grouping of the houses and the compact nature of this unusually intact historic streetscape offers a window into what a typical James Bay street might have looked like prior to the Second World War,” the nomination reads.

Staff will study the history of families, properties and land-use transition on the section of Lewis Street to determine its heritage significance.

Mayor Lisa Helps noted during the Nov. 25 committee of the whole meeting that as the city moves forward with heritage designations, the inclusion of Lekwungen stories in the process will help deepen the overall understanding of local history.

“It’s going to be really interesting as we continue down the path of reconciliation and deepen that relationship, deepen that understanding of the land, to think through and think about our heritage program through that lens,” she said.

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The outlined area of Robert Street in Victoria West will head to a public hearing to see if it has support for becoming a Heritage Conservation Area. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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