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Neighbours have their say on development replacing Esquimalt’s Gorge Pointe Pub

The pub’s lease is up at the end of 2021 after Abstract Developments bought the property last year
Gorge Pointe Pub owners Tom Burley, left, and Mike Joss outside the Esquimalt pub. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)

Neighbours of Esquimalt’s Gorge Pointe Pub had their first say over what will become of the property after the restaurant’s lease is up at year’s end.

Abstract Developments purchased the pub’s 1075 Tillicum Rd. property last year after it was on the market for four years. The company ran a virtual community feedback meeting on May 19.

Adam Cooper, Abstract’s director of community planning and development, said they want to hear from residents before going to Esquimalt with a building application.

“We want to figure out what the community values are and then do our best to reflect those,” he told the about 60-person Zoom meeting. “What do you like about the neighbourhood that you might like to see more of.”

Residents at the meeting were firm in that they want the new development to include some sort of food business that can also be a hub for social gatherings – such as a cafe, restaurant or pub.

“There’s an attachment to the space that the pub is using and we’re hearing that loud and clear,” Cooper said.

Mike Joss, general manager and co-owner of the pub, hopes they can negotiate to extend their lease past 2021, until construction on the new development begins. He said Abstract turned down one lease extension offer they made – that would see the pub operate until shovels are in the ground – and the company’s counteroffer was too costly for Gorge Pointe to pay, especially fresh off the pandemic’s third wave.

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Joss thanked the pub’s patrons for their business during the pandemic, saying it helped many of their workers stay employed.

“A pub isn’t necessarily the building, a pub is the people, a pub is the clientele,” Joss said. “We still own and control the licence, so there’s no definitive way that the Gorge Point Pub can’t be resurrected in another location.”

“Nothing’s forever, everything changes,” Joss said.

Some neighbours were concerned about adding more housing density to the area and about the new building’s height impacting how much sun the surrounding homes get.

The neighbours also asked that pedestrian and active transportation improvements be included in the plan to help offset Tillicum Road’s traffic congestion and speed. Cooper said they would work with Esquimalt during construction to move the sidewalk away from the road, widen it and add greenery and trees as a buffer between the walkway and roadway.

“We’re trying to ensure that we’re building a high-quality product that has those environmental considerations in the forefront,” he said.

Scot Osborne lives around the corner on McNaughton Avenue and is concerned about contractor crews parking on nearby side streets. He also hopes the plan would include speed bumps added on his and other nearby side streets to deter people from using them as cut-troughs to Craigflower Road.

Cooper said Abstract’s construction plans include clauses with contractors to ensure their vehicles don’t spill over into nearby neighbourhoods.

Cooper said there will other opportunities for community input before a formal application is made and sent to council.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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