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Victoria Transmission to make way for mixed-use rental and retail project on Government at Chatham

A rendering of 1885 Government Street, a six-storey rental block with ground floor retail spaces envisioned by developer Nicola Wealth and Cascadia Architects. The project is slated for auto repair shop Victoria Transmission & Auto Care, which plans to relocate its operations. Spencer Block, currently under construction, is depicted at-left and at-right of the proposal. Nicola Wealth / Cascadia Architects

Victoria Transmission to make way for mixed-use rental and retail project on Government at Chatham
Mike Kozakowski,
A key piece of Old Town real-estate is envisioned for rental housing, commercial spaces and heritage restoration at a busy north downtown intersection.
Proponent Nicola Wealth has unveiled a proposal for Government Street’s Victoria Transmission & Auto Care complex at 1885 Government Street, along with the adjacent 1908-built Sam Kee Laundry Building fronting Chatham Street.
Nicola Wealth's and architectural firm Cascadia Architects’ application encompasses a six-storey mid-rise with 79 apartment suites in studio through two-bedroom formats, plus 6,600 square feet of commercial space, and a single level of underground parking for 11 vehicles (plus bicycle stalls).
The project is proposed in between parcels currently under construction for Spencer Block (also from Nicola Wealth, and the company’s development partner Denciti Development), a 278-unit mixed-use rental and retail project on the former Government Street Fountain Tire property and lots spanning Herald Street to Chatham Street.
Lands occupied by Victoria Transmission along with the Sam Kee Laundry Building property were outliers from Nicola’s and Denciti's land assembly for Spencer Block, but will now encompass a full modern build-out along Government Street.
As per planning documents submitted to the City, a “key aspect of the proposal” is outlined as such:
“A key aspect of the proposal is the preservation, restoration, and heritage designation of the existing two-storey masonry Sam Kee Laundry building on the site. The rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of this structure serves as the central concept guiding site planning, massing, and architectural expression for the project.”
Cascadia Architects describes the design as follows:
“The design approach adopts a simple and understated architectural expression, featuring a three-part façade (top, middle, base) approach and an historically-referential language of vertically oriented structural bays clad in a warm, dark brick along both the Government Street and Chatham Street elevations in balance with matte bronze metal accents at balconies, cornices and overhangs.
“Along Government Street an alternating rhythm of balcony and glazing positioning which shifts floor to floor introduces a human scaled rhythm which emphasizes the residential nature of the building’s upper floors and animates the long side of the building. The inspiration for this shifting pattern is drawn from the composition of the Sam Kee Laundry building, whose window positions are similarly expressed. The building’s simple massing is cut back at its northern elevation, allowing for full depth projecting balconies which punctuate the building’s corners at its northern edge, reducing the building’s perceived width and providing a visual point of emphasis at the intersection of Government Street and Chatham Street.”
Speaking to the design treatment around a restored Sam Kee Laundry Building, Cascadia states:
“The building mass slides more than 10 metres back from the Chatham facing facade of the Sam Kee building, and 7 meters from its Government Street facing side elevation, creating an eddy in the public realm and a recess in the street wall condition. The generous setback from the Sam Kee building creates a natural hierarchy between the heritage and six storey structure.”

Chatham Street frontage of 1885 Government Street.
Chatham Street frontage of 1885 Government Street.
Renderings depicting 1885 Government Street's Chatham Street frontage, with the treatment of the 1908-built Sam Kee Laundry Building relative to new construction proposed by Nicola Wealth.  Nicola Wealth / Cascadia Architects

Nicola’s latest play in Old Town comes at a period of transformation throughout the downtown core’s north end, with Reliance Properties involved in a significant proposal kitty-corner from 1885 Government Street spanning between Government Street and Store Street’s waterfront. On the block west of Government Street, Le Fevre & Company is pursuing approvals for The Albion Residences, a redevelopment of a two-storey office building and surface parking lot.
Chard Development, meanwhile, has secured approvals for a three-tower project on Chatham Street/Caledonia Avenue at Douglas Street in the former location of White Spot, and where the City Centre Hotel once operated prior to becoming a housing facility.
The pending projects follow multiple mixed-use completions in recent years that have transformed surface parking lots and under-used aging structures into modern residences and commercial units.
As for Victoria Transmission & Auto Care’s future, a representative of the company says its operations will continue on, albeit at an alternate, yet unnamed location. C
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