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Big grocery store part of new Victoria development in local ‘food desert’

Several huge projects approved by council
A rendering of 1961 Douglas St. and 710 Caledonia Ave. The three-tower project was approved by city council last week. (Photo courtesy of Chard Developments)

Plans for a three-tower development with 450 units on Douglas Street, as well as a neighbouring 90-unit supportive housing development on Discovery Street, both received approval from Victoria council after a public hearing last week.

On the location of the previous White Spot Restaurant at 1961 Douglas St., bordering 710 Caledonia Ave., applicants Chard Developments in partnership with BC Housing envision mixed-level housing in three residential tower blocks reaching up to 21 storeys on top of commercial and industrial amenities.

The first building, reaching 21 storeys, will have a condominium with office and commercial spaces on lower levels. The second, also 21 storeys, will see 171 market-priced rental homes on top of retail space, a restaurant, a child-care facility and a 30,000-square-foot grocery store. The third building, reaching 16 storeys, will be owned by B.C. Housing and will offer 133 below-market-rate homes, with 20 per cent of units at deep subsidy, 50 per cent rent geared to income and 30 per cent near-market.

Underneath the three-tower complex will be an underground parking lot with 420 parking stalls, 256 of which will be residential and the other 164 for commercial use. There will also be an 8,000-square-foot public plaza on the corner of Douglas and Caledonia.

Byron Chard, president and CEO of Chard Developments, said the goal of the development is to provide a “fully-integrated community” that is not separated by different income levels.

Council was overwhelmingly in favour of the development, praising how it would provide a gateway to connect downtown and uptown. Coun. Matt Dell called it “the most visionary development” he’s seen on council.

“This is a wonderful example for us to point out to others to say when you’re thinking of what the future of this city could look like, make sure you do so intentionally and that you understand that ultimately it is about transforming not only just the land, but the use of the land and the community we build with it,” Mayor Marianne Alto said.

Referring to the area as “a little bit of a food desert,” Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said the grocery store would be a major benefit to the community. He added the child care centre is “as badly-needed as anything.”

At the same public hearing, council also passed a motion to give third reading to a supportive housing project right across the street, at 722 and 726 Discovery St.

The application is concurrent with the neighbouring Douglas Street development due to Chard Developments and BC Housing’s goal for zero displacement during the construction process.

The 90-unit supportive housing development, owned by BC Housing and operated by Our Place Society, will be built on the current site of the Capital City Centre Hotel, which has been a temporary shelter site since 2020.

The new development will provide a one-to-one unit replacement and will prioritize current residents of the temporary shelter to provide them with permanent homes. Amenities will include provided meals as well as a small kitchenette, education on life skills, on-site staff and referrals to mental health services.

“What’s exciting to me is to see we’re finally figuring out the type of housing that our most vulnerable people need,” Coun. Dell said.

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While many were in favour of the idea of providing permanent homes for the community’s most vulnerable members, councillors and members of the community raised concerns about the safety of the neighbourhood and Victoria’s limited capacity for more supportive housing.

“I think the sentiment around the table is that, while we are overall supportive of supportive housing in Victoria, we do feel like we have done more than our fair share, and we need a regional approach to this issue, and we need other jurisdictions to step up,” Coun. Caradonna said.

Coun. Marg Gardiner was the only one to vote against the motion and said she fears the new neighbourhood will become unsafe for those moving into the new three-tower development across the street.

“I would never sleep again if I knew that a resident from there went across the street and hurt one of those children that we’re trying to get to move in across the street,” she said.

The motion to give the supportive housing project third reading was approved and will return to council for a final decision at a later date. Construction on both developments is anticipated to take 40 months.