The former St. Andrew’s School on Pandora Avenue is in the midst of being torn down in order to make way for the construction of a new $70-million development.
The development, bordered by Pandora Avenue, Mason and Vancouver streets, was put forward by a division of Bosa Properties in 2013, but has undergone a number of changes since then after immense public backlash to the height of the building, concern with traffic volumes, the tower overshadowing the Mason Street Farm and lack of green space.
The 200,000-square-foot building now includes 209 rental units amongst two buildings — one six storeys and the other four. There will also be a large ground-floor commercial space that could include an urban grocer, bank, smaller retail stores, as well as 11 affordable rental units. Construction should be completed by February 2019.
Last August, more than 600 signatures were collected from residents of the North Park neighbourhood as part of a petition against the development. Residents were concerned the shopping would bring more traffic into the neighbourhood, creating congestion, and the tower would overshadow the neighbouring Mason Street Farm — a significant provider of food for local restaurants. Some also weren’t happy with the lack of green space and the way the developer approached the community.
“The developer came in and told us this is the way it’s going to be. There wasn’t any dialogue,” said resident Charles Joerin, who felt a bit better once he heard the developer was making some adjustments to the project.
In the end, the petition garnered 1,200 signatures and more than 100 residents attended the two public hearings — the first in August and the second in October.
Approving the development was one of the most difficult decisions Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has made during her four years on council. She voted in favour because of the balance of amenities it added to the community, noting the development is on par with the North Park Neighbourhood Association’s community plan drafted for the area in 1996.
“What we’re seeing now come forward 20 years later after an official community plan process, where that didn’t get changed. We’re seeing something that has much less height and density that could be there come in,” Helps said at the time the development was approved.
A year later, Jenny Farkas, president of the North Park Neighbourhood Association, said residents still have some lingering concerns when it comes to what businesses the development will house and how it will impact businesses already in the community. In the spirit of good neighbourhods, however, residents are learning to embrace the development.
“It’s going to be in our neighbourhood for a long time. The decision has been made and we want to be good neighbours with the people that live there and the businesses and the developer,” said Farkas, noting residents have had good communication with the developer, but they just don’t have the same vision.
“I hope that will continue and they are open to having conversations with us and help problem solve.”