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Downtown Residents Association opposed to 253-unit View Street rental complex

An architectural sketch of the latest redesign for 937 View Street, a 253-unit rental tower that, if approved, would rise as one of the most-dense residential buildings in the Capital Region and first with such density in decades. The proposal, however, is not supported by the Downtown Residents Association.  Nelson Investments

Downtown Residents Association opposed to 253-unit View Street rental complex
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
The Victoria Downtown Residents Association (DRA) is unwilling to back a 253-unit rental complex planned for the 900-block of View Street immediately east of the 19-storey View Towers.
 
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Nelson Investments’ proposal for a 15-storey residential building at 937 View Street – with a unit density not seen in decades – was submitted to the City of Victoria in the spring of 2017 and continues to makes its way through the civic process following two significant design changes.
 
The project’s initial architectural concept featured a multi-storey atrium and a 'beehive' or octagonal motif along the shaft of the tower. This styling was replaced in 2019 with a more traditional low-maintenance exterior finish utilizing phenolic laminate panels, composite aluminum panels and pre-finished metals. As of late 2019, the design changed once again to emphasize a podium design and simplify the shaft of the tower with composite metal and fibre cement panels.
 
Initially a single level of above-ground parking was planned to accommodate 19 vehicles, with 17 stalls in a subsequent design and now at 15, including an accessible stall.
 
The building will be constructed with pre-fabricated components, which, according to project architect de Hoog Kierulf Architects, will yield a more efficient construction process compared to traditional techniques without compromising seismic integrity or other structural requirements.
 
249 residences sized from approximately 340 square feet will be in the form of studio apartments while two suites on the 15th level will be in a larger junior one-bedroom layout.
 
An outdoor amenity area is planned for the building’s roof in-keeping with similar amenity spaces seen throughout downtown Victoria’s new residential buildings.
 
However, in a letter submitted to the City, DRA land use committee chair Ian Sutherland believes Nelson Investments’ proposal falls short on a number of fronts.
 
“There are 15 parking spaces proposed for 253 market rental units. The evidence-based requirements of [the City of Victoria's parking calculations] require 126 spaces,” Sutherland writes, adding that such a low number of on-site stalls “would permit exacerbating the parking shortage downtown,” and “demand for onsite parking by tenants will surpass the parking supply.”
 
Sutherland further noted that the supply of storage spaces for residents, at 76 lockers, is “inadequate.”
 
The DRA also expressed concern over suite sizes, referring to the 249 studio units (identified by the developer in planning documents as one-bedroom apartments) in the 350 square foot range as too small.
 
“Questions remain regarding whether liveability can be found in a studio apartment no bigger than 32 [meters squared]. Even though they’re called ‘1 bedroom,' they are not, since there is no closet in the space. These ‘1 bedrooms’ are nothing more than a space for a bed with two sliding doors on either side of the bed,” Sutherland wrote, while posing a question to planners of “how does this project align with the City’s plan to implement their City Vision 3.0 while asking all these high salaried people to live in such cramped quarters - is this really the best our city can offer?”
 
The chair also noted that “all residents, regardless of income level, want to enjoy and be proud of where they live. There are concerns that this project does not support long-term liveable housing options.”
 
Other criticisms relate to the lack of public amenities offered by the proponent (which are not required as the developer is not seeking a rezoning which traditionally triggers discussions over contributions to the public realm), the impact of residential density of over 250-units, and the building’s massing and height.
 
Given the organization's list of concerns, the DRA has taken a position of calling the proposal an “undermining of our core planning documents and is a perfect demonstration of the wrong kind of development for our community,” and is asking council to “support liveability for Victoria’s downtown.”
 
In recent years the DRA has become increasingly vocal over development proposals in the downtown core, citing the growth of the city centre’s housing supply as out of touch with the expectations for services and amenities by existing residents. Concerns among the membership over an excess of construction activity have also been raised, as has the lack of green space in the city centre. C

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