Fan Tan Alley alteration approved

Heritage building saved from destruction, but some wonder at what cost

The strange vending machine that greets passersby through the barred-window of a first-floor room on Pandora Avenue will soon be a thing of the past.

So too the substandard rental units and derelict storage space contained in the heritage building that houses the pop machine.

An overhaul of the building rounding the corner into Fan Tan Alley got the green light at Victoria city council Thursday night.

While the renovations will save the building from destruction, by slow decay or disaster, many neighbours to the project are devastated by the news of the impending upgrades.

“I’m pretty disillusioned,” said Allan Edgar, who lives on a third floor unit in Fan Tan Alley. His petition, set up in the Alley, garnered 3,300 names, of which 50 to 65 per cent were signed by people in Greater Victoria. “I thought that would be enough.”

Coun. Lynn Hunter called it an uncomfortable compromise.

“We really struggled with this one,” said she said.

Council granted a heritage alteration permit for a two-storey addition to the building fronting the alley, though set back enough to be less visible. The added density, architect Alan Lowe argues, is needed to fund the substantial upgrades to the deteriorating property belonging to the Hoy Sun Ning Yung Benevolent Association at 536 Pandora Avenue, and 4, 10-14 Fan Tan Alley.

Neighbours, however, opposed the added density, arguing it will shade the little light that enters the alleyway, and compromise a national heritage site.

“In many countries, they would not think of adding storeys to buildings (more than 100 years old),” Edgar said.

Both Edgar and Hunter question whether the development could have proceeded without the added storeys.

Council was not able to obtain any independent analysis of the finances that prove the need, Hunter said. “We’re not allowed to ask those questions.”

Despite these concerns, council approved the project six to one, (Coun. Pam Madoff voted against), deferring to the expert opinion of staff and the heritage advisory committee.

“This is a compromise and everything in the city is a compromise,” said Ken Johnson, on the committee and the president of the Hallmark Society. “Some people in the city would like to freeze downtown but you can’t do that … The difficulty is if nothing is done, those buildings are subject to burning down or falling down in an earthquake,” he said. “This project will resolve those issues.”

The skeletal remains of another heritage building in Chinatown is testament to this worst-case scenario.

Fire consumed the building on the old Buckerfield site, while a development application made its way through the approval process.

While businesses in Fan Tan Alley worry long alleyway closures will affect their business, Lowe says otherwise.

“We will be placing scaffolding in the alley so it can be kept open,” he wrote in an email to the News. “We hope to keep the alley open during most of the work.”

Construction is set to begin in the spring.

Just Posted

Chinese Culture to light up 2019 Victoria Day Parade

Groups hopes Greater Victorians ‘view the culture, embrace the friendship’

Struggling Victoria adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Royal and McPherson Society pleads its case to Victoria council

‘Dark days’ at Royal, user groups’ weekend priorities make scheduling other entertainment challenging

Uplands Park champion to earn provincial award

B.C. Community Award for Margaret Lidkea coincides with Sunday’s volunteer celebration

Oak Bay Sgt. struggles through emotional testimony in double murder trial

Andrew Berry is charged with second-degree murder in deaths of daughters Chloe (6) and Aubrey (4)

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Island-born Snowbirds pilot enjoying homecoming in skies over Comox

Logan Reid once stood clinging onto the fence outside the Comox Air… Continue reading

Attack on student in Courtenay ‘way more than bullying’, says mom

A Comox Valley mother said “it was way more than bullying” at… Continue reading

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

Most Read