Looking south west, this rendering shows what the proposed development would look like after the Canada Hotel building at 615-625 Johnson St. is demolished. (File contributed/ City of Victoria)

New downtown Victoria hotel slated to replace two heritage buildings

A development on Yates, Broad and Johnson Streets is going to a public hearing

Victoria will hold a public hearing for a proposed 134-room hotel that would see one heritage building demolished, and another gutted.

The land includes the properties at 1306-1330 Broad St., 615-625 Johnson St. and parts of 622 and 630 Yates St.

The retained facade would belong to the Ducks Building at 1314-1324 Broad St. which was built in 1892. The Ducks Building held what city staff called an “eclectic mix of tenants” over the years, including a carriage factory, auction house, saloon and brothel.

The neighbouring property, once known as the Canada Hotel, at 615-625 Johnson St. would be demolished, save for a rubble wall built in 1874 on the west side of the building.

A separate building at 1306 Broad St., presently known as The Old Hat Hair Shoppe, would also be demolished.

The resulting buildings would be five and six storeys respectively to accommodate the slanted grade of the ground.

ALSO READ: University of Victoria scraps student housing plan, opts for hotel instead

Victoria city staff said that while the Canada Hotel building does have heritage status, it doesn’t appear to be a heritage building because of the many changes it’s undergone in its lifetime, including the removal of cornices, the replacement of windows and the reconfiguration of storefronts, as well as the addition of a third storey.

“The entire facade is also covered in stucco, which would have covered any revision material and is extremely difficult to remove,” said John O’Reilly, senior heritage planner, adding that there are only two photos of what the building originally looked like. ” Because of the great loss of integrity and the uncertainty of how the building used to look, and the statement of sign highlighting only one physical feature, staff in heritage consulting have concluded it need not be retained and also that the new building would have a better fit with old town.”

Couns. Sarah Potts and Coun. Ben Isitt were most opposed to the demolition of the Canada Hotel building.

“For me this isn’t a sympathetic response to the heritage values of the property,” Isitt said. “I think when someone is gifted a 145-year-old building they have certain choices; one is to pursue the path of some property owners in the old town… another is to sell that property to someone who’s prepared to undertake refurbishment.”

ALSO READ: New downtown Victoria hotel to offer car elevator, bee sanctuary

The properties were gifted to the University of Victoria in 2001 by the late Michael Williams, who hoped any revenue from the properties would help fund UVic’s academic goals.

Coun. Geoff Young knew Williams, and said that based on conversations he’d had with him and on supportive letters from his executors, that demolishing the building was acceptable.

“I certainly concur that he would think this would be a reasonable trade off on these buildings,” Young said. “We can never know exactly what the outcome would be if an effort was made to save the corner building.”

Council also unanimously passed a motion put forward by Coun. Jeremy Loveday to ask the developers to either replace the eight affordable housing units which would be lost at the Canada Hotel, or to supply cash-in-lieu to go towards the city’s housing funds.

Council voted four-to-two to bring the designs forward to a public hearing; two councillors were not present for the meeting but will be present when the decision is ratified.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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