Victoria city council paved the way for a major expansion of the Royal B.C. Museum in a unanimous decision Thursday night.
A lengthy public hearing brought out a large crowd in support, and a few concerned with the height, density and commercial uses proposed for the multi-million-dollar project.
“(Most people expressed) how much they appreciate the museum, what it brings to the economy, what it brings in the social realm in terms of preserving our culture and our heritage,” said Mayor Dean Fortin.
The property at 675 Belleville St. has been granted a comprehensive development zone that permits the construction of a new 14-storey collections tower, increased gallery space, and new commercial uses, such as restaurant, office and retail.
The new zone replaces the outdated two-family dwelling zoning.
Typically developers are required to submit a rezoning application alongside a development permit application. That’s because the look and feel of a project is as important as its scale, and the dual process allows city council to evaluate the proposal as a whole.
In this case, city council granted an exception.
“Because it is a longer term plan on a complex site … we recognized that it was going to be developed in phases,” said Fortin. “Until (the museum) had an idea what was acceptable to the community, and what was acceptable to the city, there was a huge risk of doing (detailed design work).”
The city, however, took steps to maintain the integrity of the harbour through contracts and memorandums of understanding, he said.
For instance, these agreements set conditions on the placement of the tower, the green space requirements, and the treatment of the three heritage buildings on site.
““We can now move forward confidently to consult with British Columbians about how to make their provincial museum and archives the most engaging and inspiring place of discovery,” said outgoing museum CEO Pauline Rafferty.