A proposal to redevelop Fisgard and Quadra streets’ 112-year-old, 15-unit Abbey complex into a highrise rental tower could proceed without a public hearing, according to a planning document submitted to Victoria council.
City planners have issued a recommendation ahead of this week’s Committee of the Whole to waive a public hearing for a largely community plan compliant rezoning and concurrent development permit application from Aryze Developments for 1702 Quadra Street and 862 Fisgard Street
, where the proponent has pitched a 12-storey, 91-unit apartment block accommodating four on-site parking spots.
“That, pursuant to section 30 of the Land Use Procedures Bylaw, Council waives the requirement for the holding of a public hearing,” staff write, then further expanding on the recommendation with:
“Council may choose to not hold a public hearing where an application is consistent with the OCP. However, notice must still be sent to all owners and occupiers of adjacent properties as specified in the City’s Land Use Procedures Bylaw advising that the public hearing is being waived prior to introductory readings of the bylaws.”
The question of expending time resources on broad community consultation and an eventual public hearing on development proposals that meet the City’s own development guidelines has been debated for years, resulting in an alternative approvals process that, with staff support, can sidestep engagement such as a public hearing.
Although unlikely given council’s pro-housing agenda and desire to expedite housing proposals, mayor and councillors have discretion to require a public hearing should they deem a round of public engagement in council chambers is necessary.
As part of its overall recommendations to council, staff cite the building’s delivery of market rental housing (affordable homes are not currently financially viable without post-approval government funding) and its general alignment with the Official Community Plan (OCP), which calls for buildings of up to 20 storeys at the proposal’s location, “intensified multi-unit residential and mixed-use development,” and densities up to 5:1, which the applicant is seeking a variance on to allow a slightly higher 5.5:1.
Staff say that while the proposal is within the boundary of the North Park neighbourhood, the development is also guided by the Downtown Core Area Plan (DCAP), in addition to North Park’s OCP. The DCAP calls for a building of up to 15-storeys at The Abbey’s location, well within the OCP’s 20-storey height limit, although permitting a lower density of 4.5:1 compared to the OCP’s 5:1.
The proposal requires a parking variance to reduce vehicle stalls from the required 60 to four, a height variance from 37 meters to nearly 43 meters, and multiple setback and site coverage variances (in addition to a slight density variance).
|A full view of Aryze Developments' latest design for 1702 Quadra Street. Aryze Developments |
|An interim architectural design revealed between the January 2022 and June 2023 iterations, featuring The Abbey as part of 1702 Quadra Street's lower levels. Aryze Developments |
In terms of the project’s history, Aryze submitted a design concept in 2021 that incorporated The Abbey’s heritage facade into a mixed-use residential and ground floor retail project, while intending to heritage-designate the 1911 landmark. However, The Abbey’s facade retention was ultimately dropped due to costs, City staff say, and a redesign was submitted to the City in June of this year.
The current iteration going before council, from Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture, is in the form of a tower with a thinner massing than the initial proposal in exchange for two storeys of height and balconies in order to maintain a similar unit density.
In describing its design pivot dropping The Abbey’s facade retention, Aryze outlines an homage like so:
“Currently, this looks like exploring potential creative measures which create a material memory of the existing building while adding dimension to the ground floor and exterior. One example of this is the proposed use of salvaged brick from the demolition of the existing building to demarcate its location through a series of short walls and planters along Fisgard Street—bringing historical awareness and textural references to the original building to the pedestrian scale. We are also interested in continued collaboration with local makers and creatives to explore design opportunities that weave the old with the new while remaining receptive to feedback from community members.”
Another aspect of the initial plan incorporated into the update is the lack of residential parking. In the 2022 design, parking was limited to three on-site stalls (one for a car-share vehicle, two for commercial and loading purposes) in order to accommodate a retention of The Abbey’s heritage elements, and due to difficult site conditions for the purposes of building underground parking. The proposal going before council includes two accessible car stalls and an accessible van stall, plus a car-share stall.
To support car-free transportation, Aryze is including a state-of-the-art secure bicycle storage room for residents which features electric bicycle charging stations and parking specifically suitable for larger cargo bikes, which represent a growing segment of the Capital’s cycling activity. Additionally, an enhanced bicycle repair station will be included.
Existing residents within The Abbey’s 15 rental homes will receive relocation assistance during construction under a multi-phased approach that Aryze says goes beyond the City of Victoria’s regulations governing the redevelopment of rental housing and tenant displacement scenarios.
In an informational package delivered to the City of Victoria last year, Aryze states it will exceed the financial compensation required to be provided to tenants upon relocation to an alternative apartment, which will be aided through a relocation coordinator. The coordinator will work to find a comparable suite within the neighbourhood for residents who choose that option, or within new-build housing. Aryze confirmed to Citified in 2022, that the company will provide tenants with at least six months notice prior to the start of construction. Individuals with additional needs will be accommodated on a one-on-one basis.
Aryze Developments is one of the Capital’s most active real-estate development firms with multiple high density projects completed throughout the region, several underway, and numerous proposals in planning. C