12-storey apartment tower with no on-site residential parking proposed behind old Times Colonist HQ
Mike Kozakowski, Citified.ca
Published March 6, 2023
A year’s-long effort of restoring and re-purposing the former Times Colonist Building at 2621 Douglas Street into a modern office and commercial complex has completed. And now, developer Merchant House Capital has unveiled plans for the final phase of construction that, if approved, will transform a surface parking lot at the rear of the property into rental residences and retail space.
Merchant House is seeking to rezone an undeveloped parcel on Kings Road at Ross Lane along the eastern frontage of the Victoria Press Building, formerly the Times Colonist Building. The scope of the project involves a 12-storey purpose-built rental tower (dubbed Victoria Press Apartments) rising to 45 meters, with 160 units ranging from studio to two-bedroom suites, plus a co-housing component.
The ground floor will contain approximately 4,300 square feet of retail usage and amenities for residents.
A unique aspect to the proposal is its lack of parking for residents, despite containing a 120-stall underground parking garage. The proponent, as part of a document presented to the City of Victoria, cites the lack of on-site parking for residential use as “[improving] the ecological fit of the project into the future urban context.” The tower’s parking will be available to the Victoria Press Building’s commercial tenants and their clientele.
In the document to the City, the developer outlined five reasons for not including parking for the apartments, referring to the area’s existing cycling and transit infrastructure, the lack of parking demand among renters compared to condominium owners, the developer’s support for a car-free lifestyle through the provision of bus passes for studio units (available for a period of five years), on-site bike parking and a car-share membership for each suite (along with allocated space for two car-share vehicles), and the citing of five car-free developments in Victoria, North Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto as precedent-setting examples.
|The second phase of the Victoria Press Building redevelopment includes a 12-storey rental tower on Ross Lane at Kings Road in Victoria's Burnside Gorge neighbourhood. Merchant House Capital | D'Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism|
In terms of design, Victoria-based D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism has envisioned a rectangular massing featuring a breezeway at ground level, and separation from the Press Building by an alleyway. The highrise will include red brick along its lower floors as an ode to the nearby Bay Street Armoury, while the rest of the tower will display colours reflecting the Press Building’s colour scheme. A dominant architectural feature is a two-storey horizontal element, on floors seven and eight, with recessed suites compared to frontages above and below.
The Victoria Press Apartments proposal is the latest redevelopment play in the immediate vicinity, which includes the on-going restoration and repurposing of the Scott Building on Douglas Street at Hillside Avenue into rental apartments and retail space (plus additional apartments on an adjacent parking lot), a planned expansion of the Sandman Hotel property kitty-corner from the Scott Building, and a proposal to build a new Volvo automotive dealership on Government Street just north of Bay Street.
Merchant House Capital, meanwhile, has been involved with multiple development efforts in Victoria, including the restoration and conversion of the Dominion Hotel into rental apartments, and the successful rezoning of multiple downtown properties for redevelopment into a 20-storey AirBnB-styled hotel on Blanshard Street at Fort Street. C
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