The Capital Regional District (CRD) Hospitals and Housing Committee heard dozens of Hillside-Quadra residents ask for the sale of 950 Kings Rd. to the City of Victoria on Wednesday to accommodate community needs.
It also heard from CRD staff about a proposed mixed-used complex for the site, which would see 150 residential units and 50 assisted-living units for people living with mental health disorders.
The site of the former Blanshard Elementary school currently acts as a community space for Victoria’s lowest-income neighbourhood. It hosts cultural events and sports programs, spillover space for the Quadra Village Community Centre, and the Vancouver Island School of Art, all with a lease agreements until 2021.
The CRD purchased the land from the Greater Victoria School District in 2015, with aims of using it for hospital purposes due to its proper zoning and central location. A proposal for the 200-unit complex was brought forward for information on Wednesday, but faced public backlash due to concerns about the loss of greenspace, the increase in traffic and the neighbourhood’s seemingly unfair share of housing and hospital resources.
|An early schematic presented at a CRD Hospitals and Housing Committee meeting shows a proposed residential and assisted living complex at 950 Kings Rd. (Screenshot/ CRD)|
“We need things that will help build a healthy neighbourhood and take the pressure off of the concentration of developments we already have,” said Kelly Greenwell, executive director of the Quadra Village Community Centre (QVCC).
The Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood has the city’s highest concentration of subsidized housing developments, and recently became the home of a new care facility for seniors with dementia. The Summit is a 320-unit complex adjacent to 950 Kings Rd. It is set to open shortly.
“It’s time to share the burden,” Greenwell said. “These regional service are really important… But we’re basically tolerating that other neighbourhoods don’t want to take on these projects.”
The Summit is replacing services offered at both the Oak Bay Lodge and the Mount Tolmie Hospital.
CRD Housing and Hospitals Director Ben Isitt called to question whether other locations could be explored for these hospital uses, or if more public consultation could be incorporated into the design.
“It would be good for CRD to talk to the City of Victoria. Engaging the neighbourhood is essential,” Isitt said. “The current vision of the project may be fatally flawed due to a lack of engagement from the neighbourhood.”
View Royal Mayor David Screech, who also sits as a director on the committee, questioned Isitt’s views as being skewed from his other role as a Victoria City Councillor.
“If Victoria wants to make the offer to the buy the land maybe they could do so,” Screech said. “This property is zoned for what is being proposed and the Housing and Hospitals Committee is the landowner, so the landowner does have some legal rights. Yes there needs to be discussion, but we also have to respect that it was zoned and bought for hospital purposes.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the committee, concluded that alternative options need to be looked at.
“It’s time for Victoria and the CRD to find a way to work together on this… the drawing is beautiful, but completely unrealistic to only see a one-storey building there. Maybe there could be a community centre on top of that,” Helps said. “We will be able to find a way forward that balances everyone’s needs that has greenspace, mental health [services] and underground parking, but it’s going to take some hard work.”
Helps also said she could guarantee the land parcel would not remain looking as it currently does.
The committee accepted the proposed report for consideration, without making any final decisions.
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