$50 million, 135-room Broad Street hotel proposal seen as economic catalyst for downtown Victoria
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Published August 25, 2021
A plan to contribute over $50 million to the construction of Victoria’s first hotel property in nearly 20-years could deliver an economic impact widely viewed as a strategic catalyst for the Capital’s post-pandemic resurgence.
Envisioned for the 1300-block of Broad Street by proponents UVic Properties and Chard Development is a 135-room complex that will rehabilitate key, visible heritage-defining elements of the 1892-built Duck’s Building and add two subordinate but complementary structures to the north and south. Additionally, a rubble stone wall dating to 1872 at the rear of the Duck’s Building in what is known as Duck’s Alley will be day-lighted and rehabilitated.
Despite the urgency to kick-start Victoria’s economy on all fronts, before work can begin Victoria council must review the project as part of a September 23 hearing. Elected officials have intimated since the start of the pandemic a desire to back economic drivers to reignite the city centre as a dominant business and tourism hub for the region, although public feedback will drive council’s decision-making.
Sentiment among the City’s business community towards the Old Town proposal, however, is overwhelmingly positive and has the backing of downtown merchants. As a collective voice for commercial operators in the city centre, the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s (DVBA) recent championing of emerging real-estate proposals (including UVic Properties’ and Chard Developments’ hotel) is part of a multi-pronged drive by the organization to help animate more area’s of the core with all-day activity, together with supporting the delivery of quality placemaking to Victoria’s urban realm.
“The DVBA is very supportive of the hotel development proposal for the old Duck’s Building,” says Jeff Bray, the organization’s Executive Director. “A [new] hotel would add much needed [hotel room inventory] in the downtown core, but would also add vibrancy and activity after 5:00 pm which is something that area needs. The new commercial spaces will also add new opportunities for people places in our downtown core.”
Considering the south Island’s decline in hotel rooms since the early 2000s as numerous properties converted to rental apartments or government housing, the need for more lodging capacity is at an all time high in a region dependent on tourism and viewed nationally as a welcoming post-pandemic destination.
Speaking to strong demand for rooms in Greater Victoria, Chard Development cites industry and community feedback intimating Victoria’s need for an infusion of modern, high quality room options to sustain changing trends in the tourism sector and growing demand among visitors wanting to experience one of Canada’s most beautiful cities.
“The loss of over a thousand hotel rooms just in the downtown core of Victoria in a relatively short span of time has significantly impacted the city’s tourism sector,” says Byron Chard, President, Chard Development. “Visitors are forced to find accommodation outside the core, and car activity is increased as they travel into downtown to see the sites, while local strata property owners are incentivized to turn long-term housing into transient accommodation.”
Now in its sixth year of planning, the Broad Street proposal has incorporated numerous design changes in response to feedback sessions between community stakeholders and city hall, and the final iteration is going before council with adopted guidance and approval from the City of Victoria’s Advisory Design and Heritage Advisory panels.
Planning documents show a restored Duck's Building featuring four levels of hotel rooms above a commercial ground floor accommodated through the addition of a single recessed rooftop floor. The same massing and usage mix will extend to the new-build portion south of the Duck’s Building on what is currently a surface parking lot. The northern section fronting Johnson Street (presently comprised of ground floor retail stores and a vacant upper level in a two-storey building) will see a new massing of six levels, five of which will serve as hotel rooms plus a ground floor commercial component.
|A rendering of a proposed hotel on Broad Street between Yates and Johnson streets, looking northwest. UVic Properties / Chard Development|
Architects have also taken steps to emphasize the Duck’s Building’s prominence through a recess in the frontages of its north and south building sections, creating visual prominence for one of Old Town Victoria’s oldest buildings.
Two car elevators installed as part of the Duck’s Building’s rehabilitation will lessen the visual impact of street-front vehicle entry and exit lanes while reducing the space typically allocated for interior ramps. 36 vehicle stalls will be included. In addition, an onsite bike valet program will encourage local residents to pursue active transportation options into downtown while also attracting bicycle tourism.
The rooftop will feature a bee habitat, a growing trend among urban projects investing into unique ways to support pollinators.
In terms of local economic impact, studies conducted by the proponents show $5.9 million is targeted annually as a direct capital infusion by hotel guests into Victoria’s economy. Additionally, 344 jobs will be created during a multi-year construction phase, and over 160 ongoing full-time positions will be available to Victorians as part of operations and its spinoff effects.
$2.9 million in taxation revenue for all levels of government is budgeted, $900,000 of which is estimated as municipal taxation contributed through hotel operations and spending by guests.
|The Duck's Building, situated at 1322 Broad Street. Citified.ca.|
Although no hotel operator has been formally named as of the publication date of this article, Chard Development has confirmed to Citified that a well-known, internationally-recognized hotelier will be unveiled in the near future.
“Tourism remains one of the most important job creation and economic engines on southern Vancouver Island. This project will help to ensure ongoing employment and broad appeal in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving tourism marketplace,” Chard says. “Introducing a highly regarded, well established hotel brand to the Capital’s tourism make-up will come with its own strategic marketability and build on Victoria’s positive image as a must-see Canadian city.”
Chard Development’s and UVic Properties’ Broad Street plans are among several hotel developments moving forward in the Capital. The operators of Abigail's Hotel are working towards an already approved eight-room expansion of their McClure Street boutique property, and Douglas Street's Sandman Hotel is eyed for redevelopment from a four-storey to a six-storey building with 182-rooms, nearly double the Sandman's existing room capacity. In downtown Victoria on Fort Street at Blanshard Street Merchant Capital is seeking approvals for a nearly 130-room AirBnB-like hotel tower known as the Montrose Wintergarden, and Vancouver-based Reliance Properties plans to move forward on a heritage restoration of 780 Blanshard Street into a commercial development that could include a mix of office and retail spaces, and a boutique hotel. C
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