More than 600 signatures have been collected from residents of the North Park neighbourhood as part of a petition against a proposed development for the St. Andrew’s School site.
Vancouver developer BlueSky Properties eyed up the site for a $70-million mixed-use development when the school shut its doors in 2013. Bordered by Pandora Avenue, Mason and Vancouver streets, the development calls for a six-storey building with 210 rental units in two buildings and a large ground-floor commercial space that could include an urban grocer, bank and smaller retail stores.
The development, however, hasn’t sat well with area residents since the get go. When Charles Joerin with the North Park Neighbourhood Association first heard about the project his heart sank to his toes.
According to Joerin, who’s lived in the community for 20 years, 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. He also wasn’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 Joerin, who felt a bit better once he heard the developer was making some adjustments to the project.
In order to address the community’s concerns, the developer has since made a few changes, such as reducing the height of one of the buildings from six to four stories along Mason Street and addressing traffic concerns.
Last year, Victoria council advanced the application subject to a number of conditions, which the developer says have since been addressed in the revised plans. Despite some community input during the last two years, Joerin said it’s not enough to make all the residents happy.
“I began to see it was more like re-arranging the deck of chairs on the Titanic. They haven’t really solved the massing issue and traffic,” he said, adding a new grocery store could suck the life out of businesses already in the area.
“I feel it’s kind of a big ugly bully moving into town and flexing their muscles.”
The signatures collected for the petition will be presented to city council next Thursday during a public hearing on the matter. Recognizing the site needs to be developed, Joerin said the neighbourhood doesn’t want to stand still and remain living in the past. He just hopes that whatever development is approved will be for the good of the community.
“I’d like to see something that makes a good transition from the downtown core into a nice quiet residential neighbourhood,” he said. “This does not achieve that.”
— Pamela Roth