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Telus Ocean proposal set for downtown Victoria approved despite divided public

Telecom’s office building will transform triangular lot at Douglas and Humboldt streets
A rendering of the Telus Ocean building that would sit at the corner of Douglas and Humboldt streets in downtown Victoria. (Courtesy of Telus)

After hearing from hundreds who were divided on the project, Victoria council accepted a vision for the Telus Ocean development that will transform the downtown triangular lot at Douglas and Humboldt streets.

The proposal for Telus’ future Victoria office looks to eventually house more than 450 employees in the 11-storey, mostly-glass facade and zero-carbon building, which will also have ground-floor commercial space.

At a Dec. 16 meeting, which followed a public hearing a week prior, council approved rezoning the site to allow for increased density and an amendment allowing the project to go ahead despite it infringing on protected views of the Olympic Mountains from Douglas Street.

Variances were granted to allow for increased building height (53 metres), reduced setbacks and lowering the number of vehicle parking stalls in the underground garage to 116, down from 206.

Council passed an amendment to increase the number of accessible parking stalls to five. The development will also include 141 bike stalls and provide at least 94 bus passes, each good for three years.

At the public hearing, concerns centered around the proposal’s height and massing, the increase in density, the design not aligning with historical aspects of the area, parking impacts and disrupted skyline views.

Others liked the blend of heritage and contemporary building-style and the project: adding jobs to the area, bringing life to the existing parking lot, creating an economic boost for local businesses and restaurants, enriching the local tech sector and the building’s sustainability.

An amendment that would have Telus and its developer re-address building height and massing concerns failed.

READ: Rentals, ‘co-living’ units in design of proposed 16-storey development in Victoria’s Harris Green

Many councillors who ended up supporting the current proposal noted Telus Ocean can be part of the city’s ongoing story – where growth highlights heritage, but also contributes to the Victoria of the future.

“I did find this to be a very difficult decision, but also a very interesting commentary on what we believe about the story of Victoria,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “For me, the story of Victoria has lots of room for what the city was and lots of room for what the city is going to be.”

Telus officials claimed the more than $100 million development would be the most sustainable office building in B.C., and potentially all of Canada. Staff said the public realm improvements on and around the site go above and beyond Victoria’s standards. Those improvements include: broader sidewalks, more trees, heritage lighting, sustainable water features and accessibility features.

The development will work to address potential bird collisions by using patterned glass that is visible to the animals.

READ: 20-storey hotel approved for downtown Victoria

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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