Victoria has pushed back the final decision on a proposal that could redevelop aging James Bay apartments and add a net increase of 92 rentals.
Following a public hearing on Thursday (March 24), council signalled it’ll likely greenlight the 137-unit rental development planned for the corner of Menzies and Niagara streets.
A final vote on the proposal was delayed so the city and developer Primex Investments could prepare a legal agreement giving some tenants the right to return at 20 per cent below market rent.
The move is in response to concerns about tenants of the existing apartments, highlighted at previous meetings and the public hearing, during which a resident of one of the Niagara Street homes slated for redevelopment said his family would become homeless if they have to move.
Greg Mitchell, a Primex senior planner and development manager, said a relocation specialist has worked with the 45 tenants to help them find housing options, with 34 having moved out as of March 21. Primex has also paid just over $110,000 to 23 tenants who are eligible for the city’s assistance program and is working with 10 others to ink compensation agreements for about $7,000 each.
The plan envisions a net increase of 58 trees at the site. However, the public had concerns about the planned removal of six purple leaf plum trees, along Menzies Street, for construction of the underground parkade, plus widening the sidewalk and separating it from the road.
Four of the trees have a fungus that shows they’re decaying from the inside, parks staff said, and all are nearing the end of their natural life. Staff noted they try to replace flowering trees with the same species where appropriate. Other speakers at the hearing said not building in Victoria could lead to forests being clearcut for housing outside the city.
Of the 137 units, the market-rental proposal includes 89 one-bedrooms, 33 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedrooms. The developer pitched the proposal as taking advantage of the strategic location, with recreation spots all around and a commercial hub on the same block. The design aims to match the neighbourhood character and keeping the building to four storeys along Menzies and Niagara streets was said to address height concerns.
The plan also calls for 95 vehicle stalls, 10 visitor spaces and 250 bike spots.
Still, some people were against the development’s parking impacts, density and the building not fitting the neighbourhood fabric. Other speakers were excited about new rentals in a central area, with several sharing stories of being young workers at risk of having to leave the city to find housing.
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