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Possible redevelopment riles North Park area neighbours

St. Andrew’s proposal out of scale with community, residents say
St Andrews School development
North Park Neighbourhood Association members Charles Joerin

A proposal to redevelop the St. Andrew’s elementary land isn’t sitting well with the residential neighbourhood butting up against the property.

Vancouver-based BlueSky Properties is looking to build a six-storey building with 208 residential units and commercial space at 1002 Pandora Ave., on the northeast corner of Vancouver Street.

“We see the neighbourhood giving everything and not getting anything back,” said Tristan Trotter, who lives and works within the block.

In 2010, Island Catholic Schools announced it will consolidate three elementary schools into two, by relocating students and staff from St. Andrew’s to St. Joseph’s elementary in Saanich or St. Patrick’s elementary near Royal Jubilee Hospital.

It’s not the first example of church institutions downsizing their inventory of facilities, and thereby opening up development opportunities in the city.

Last year, the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia sold St. Alban’s Anglican Church, upsetting Oaklands residents who wanted to keep the church hall as a community building.

The pending sale of St. Andrew’s, however, presents a different opportunity. In Victoria’s newly adopted Official Community Plan, the southern portion of the neighbourhood along Pandora Avenue is slated for higher density, mixed-use development. The sale of the St. Andrew’s school, gym and field presents an opportunity to meet these growth targets.

BlueSky’s proposal, however, hasn’t been met with approval by the North Park Neighbourhood Association.

At six storeys, the development requires a height variance, and the proposed .457 hectare footprint could be disproportionate to the single-family homes on Mason Street, Trotter said. He added that traffic from the complex would spill out onto Mason, a neighbourhood street, rather than Pandora, a feeder thoroughfare.

Trotter predicts the tension with North Park is the kind the city will see more of as it moves towards densification.

“It’s a test case of what’s to come,” said Trotter. The newly-adopted official community plans calls for the growth of small urban villages in every neighbourhood – not just in and around the downtown core.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon represents the North Park neighbourhood on council and voted against the OCP.

“The impacts of the decision in the official community plan were not fully understood by the community,” Gudgeon said.

That said, she has mixed feelings about BlueSky’s proposal.

“North Park is working so hard to re-establish its sense of community and it is a wonderful neighbourhood,” she said.

“(The St. Andrew’s) site is a great development site that could really strengthen the neighbourhood.”

At the same time, she added, “I’m elected to represent the neighbourhood (and) the neighbourhood is opposed.”

The solution, she said, is for everybody to come to the table and find a compromise.

BlueSky Properties did not offer comment to the News by deadline.

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