A Vancouver architect plans to revitalize two prominent buildings sitting at gateways to Victoria, including the well-known Wellburn’s building.
Michael Green Architecture is looking to start construction soon on two wood buildings. The first, titled The Scott Building, is located at the southeast corner of Hillside Avenue and Douglas Street. The second will be called ParkWay and will be on the site where the Wellburn’s building is at Pandora Avenue and Cook Street.
“Both are gateway projects for Victoria,” said Michael Green, founder of the architecture and design firm taking on these builds. “We want to balance celebrating the historic buildings but bring them into modern times with housing and density. We’re adding to them in the most cost-effective way to give the community rental options and hopefully enhance the neighbourhood.”
The Scott Building is currently a three-storey, century-old brick building with a hybrid timber and steel structure. According to Michael Green Architecture, the building will be revitalized to maintain its “vintage” character while using updated components to comply with building codes and energy requirements. It will undergo seismic upgrades and the centre of the building will be removed on the upper two storeys to bring daylight into apartments that will wrap around an elevated courtyard.
There will also be a fourth storey added behind the existing building’s parapet to make more space for rental apartments.
Extensions on the east and west sides of the building will be made of six-storey wood frame construction. The main floor of the building will be commercial and retail space with a cafe space proposed on the main floor of one of the extensions. A plaza in between the extensions will be accessible to the public.
“Adapting buildings and making them meet the needs of our time is part of the way we protect and keep them. We tried really hard to balance the issues,” Green said.
The Wellburn’s building has not been maintained well over time, Green said. Coming up with a design for it was a balance of existing technical and architectural issues as well as what’s most important to protect in terms of history.
The two-storey masonry building was originally constructed in 1911 by William Ridgway-Wilson. The new development is proposing four and six storey rental apartments with retail and commercial space maintained on the existing ground floor as well as a cafe space facing Cook Street.
A courtyard – or mews – would separate the historic and modern buildings at street level, serving as the residential entrance to the building and providing access to a courtyard. A pedestrian walkway for public access will also be added.
About 50 per cent of the existing building will be retained, including the historic facades facing Pandora Avenue and Cook Street and the north-east wall facing the residential mews. There are also plans to designate the building as heritage.
Due to COVID-19, the planning permission process for the buildings was postponed and was picked up again by the City of Victoria at the start of July according to a spokesperson for Michael Green. The architecture firm is expecting to receive planning approval for both projects in September with construction starting at the beginning of 2021. Victoria council will not have to approve any variances, the spokesperson said, noting that both projects have been very well received.