As a property owner and manager, the University of Victoria doesn’t just control lands and buildings in and around Ring Road.
In fact, UVic Properties owns and manages over 135 commercial, retail and office spaces, as well as 45 residential properties in the Capital Region, not to mention the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich and the Marine Technology Centre in North Saanich.
Lovers of Il Terrazzo’s Italian food dine in a downtown building owned by UVic Properties, while thirsty patrons daily drink craft beers at Swan’s Hotel and Brew Pub, owned and operated by the university.
But clients of businesses located in UVic buildings on Broad and Johnson Street – those who enjoy board games, getting a unique tattoo or dining on fish and chips, for example – may one day have to look elsewhere for those services.
UVic has big redevelopment plans for its properties between 1312 and 1324 Broad St., as well as at 622, 625 and 630 Johnson St. These properties, as well as Swan’s, were gifted to the university in 2001 from the estate of the late Michael Williams, in hopes they would help fund UVic’s academic goals.
In all, 17 businesses operate out of these addresses, some of which include Wolf Sheep Art House, The Old Hat Hair Shoppe, Old Vic Fish and Chips, Vibestreet Dance and Games Workshop. All may have to move to accommodate UVic’s newest plans.
In partnership with Chard Development, UVic has envisioned the complete renovations of these properties to create 59 units of student housing and 104 market-level condos, as well as some retail space. The ambitious project would see many new additions, but would aim to preserve the Duck’s Building, built in 1892 by former B.C. finance minister, Simeon Duck.
|A rendering of the new buildings at 1312-1324 Broad Street. City of Victoria|
Peter Kuran, president and CEO of UVic Properties, described the project as a “four-wall restoration” of the Duck’s Building, with new buildings on either side to help support it.
“We did a review of these assets, and seismically and otherwise they need a huge overhaul,” he said. “So it needs a sizable renovation, and that’s how we got to this point. It’s a challenge with these older buildings, but we have a new plan and we’re very excited.”
The student housing would be market-rate rentals made available to graduate and upper level students, allowing them the opportunity to live downtown.
“What we’ve heard is, ‘gosh I’m a grad student, but I just can’t get any housing,’ so we want to offer market rental and offer preference so when you do come through UVic you have living options,” Kuran said.
There would be no time limit for when graduates had to leave, he added. “After you’re a student, you’re a graduate and we’re doing a bit to help you get [on] your feet … it might be just the time you need housing and stability.”
The student rental suites and condos will both be micro units, averaging out at 400 square feet.
While these changes are still in their early stages of planning and approval, UVic is continuing renovations of Swan’s Pub. The bar is becoming more open, with new liquor licensing allowing minors to sit in previously adult-only areas.
“It hasn’t been touched in 30 years, so it’s getting a new feel, a bit of renewal,” Kuran said. One change came when staff found one of Williams’ old motorcycles stored underneath a Johnson Street building. “We polished it up and hung it on the wall in homage to him.”
The pub’s renovations will wrap up in January.
Also wrapping up is UVic’s restoration of a building at Queenswood, a property it purchased from the Sisters of St. Ann at the corner of Queenswood Drive and Arbutus Road. It will officially open up as the new home of Oceans Network Canada on July 23.
While there’s always lots happening, Kuran said, the properties are doing exactly what they’re intended to.
“It’s what this portfolio is for, it invests into the local economy and provides much-needed funds for students and student services, it’s sort of self-perpetuating.”