Tower planned for Victoria motel site near legislature

A prominent Victoria site where rot has set in at a long-vacant motel is on the cusp of getting new life as a seniors’ housing centre with shops on the ground floor.

The 15-storey seniors’ housing project is proposed for a site occupied by the boarded-up Crystal Court Motel building near Victoria Harbour.

The intention is to apply to Victoria city hall next month for a rezoning and development permit for a 175-unit building, Heather Harley, spokeswoman for site owner Concert Properties Ltd., said Tuesday.

Plans for Tapestry Seniors Living are in the early design phase, developed after meetings with municipal and neighbourhood representatives over the past several months.

Retail space at the corner of Belleville and Douglas streets would help “animate and draw pedestrians toward this prominent corner and along to St. Ann’s Academy,” according to Concert’s proposal outline.

Vancouver-based Concert Properties bought the 701 Belleville St. site from Westbank Corp. in January for $10 million.

Once a stylish and beloved motel, the 65-year-old structure has been vacant since the early 2000s. Developer Austin Hamilton sold it to Westbank after failing to win approval for a condominium development and a downtown art gallery.

As years passed, the vacant motel deteriorated, becoming an eyesore amid downtown Victoria landmarks and tourist attractions, including Crystal Garden, Canadian Pacific Lawn Bowling Club, Empress Hotel, Victoria Conference Centre and the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Concert hopes to harmonize its project with surrounding heritage buildings and the James Bay neighbourhood, according to the developer’s proposal.

The 39,690-square-foot building would have 133 seniors’ rental units and 42 seniors’ condominiums, ranging from 400 to 1,000 square feet. There would be a mix of studio, one-bedroom, one-bedroom-and-den and two-bedroom units. There are to be 90 car-parking spots for residents, nine for the commercial area, and bicycle parking.

Victoria Coun. Margaret Lucas, who represents James Bay, called the proposal “fabulous,” saying Concert put a lot of thought into it.

The proposed design is not yet available from the developer, but Lucas said a tower is planned on the east part of the site toward St. Ann’s. Heights would be lower toward Douglas and Belleville streets, she said.

An interior courtyard linked with another Concert property, Q Apartments at 655 Douglas St., is envisioned. Sight lines have been protected to ensure there’s a clear view from James Bay to St. Ann’s.

“That was one of the things that the neighbourhood wanted,” Lucas said.

Concert has been active in the Victoria market for years. It is partnering with Jawl Properties Ltd. on the six-acre Capital Park project behind the legislature that will include offices, residential, and commercial space.

Other Concert condominiums in Victoria include the nearby Astoria and Belvedere.

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