Victorians asked to weigh in on future of Fort Street's 'Antique Row' retail make-up as new devs lead storefront revival
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Published February 20, 2020
A significant modernization effort along downtown Victoria’s Antique Row has presented an opportunity for downtown residents, merchants, workers and future business operators to re-envision the future of the retail corridor.
The 800-block of Fort Street, which for generations was the Capital’s ground zero for antiques, used furniture and vintage housewares that earned it the moniker, is undergoing redevelopment in the form of three mixed-use residential and commercial projects that will rejuvenate nearly half of the block’s street-side frontage.
With the first building just completing construction, a second green-lighted and a third in the final stages of municipal approvals, the trio of new-builds will deliver 14,000 square feet of retail opportunities to Fort Street and nearly 430 residences catering to young professionals, downtown workers and seniors.
As the projects draw closer, the stakeholders involved are directing their focus towards the community for a conversation on how Victorians feel about Fort Street, and what form the block’s future retail make-up should take.
“Rarely does an opportunity to have an open discussion on the character of the street-level experience of a central city block present itself, and especially one that for generations has been a special destination for Victorians,” says Robert Fung, founder of The Salient Group that is leading two of the development efforts.
“What do Victorians value about this stretch of Fort Street? What do residents, workers, visitors and business owners think the character of Fort Street should be? What is necessary for a truly mixed-use neighbourhood to thrive, to become a destination and a vibrant addition to the downtown core? We’d love to continue that dialogue."
The Salient Group’s projects – a mid-rise nearing completion at 840 Fort Street as the six-storey Sawyer Block with 60 affordable rental suites and 900 square feet of retail space, and a 10-storey building approved at 819-827 Fort Street comprised of 100 rental apartments and 5,000 square feet of commercial/retail space – will collectively yield approximately 6,000 square feet for restaurants, shops, bistros or professional offices. Most notably, both of these projects have retained portions of the original historic buildings on their sites, creating a strong sense that this neighbourhood is evolving on the strength of its character, rather than ignoring its past.
|The Sawyer Block is a 60-residence affordable rental project by The Salient Group that recently completed at 840 Fort Street. The Salient Group|
These two purpose-built rentals are in addition to Parc Retirement Living’s seniors complex that will redevelop the remainder of Fort Street’s frontage east of The Salient Group’s 10-storey tower with an additional 8,000 square feet of commercial units.
Although the trio of new buildings represent the first wave of redevelopment in this block of Fort Street, other developers have made efforts in recent years to repurpose existing properties on a piecemeal basis, but Antique Row’s retail landscape here didn’t make headlines until a landlord with multiple holdings in the area invested in comprehensive upgrades.
Fort Properties, which manages nine storefronts along Fort Street, five along Blanshard Street and two on Broughton Street, undertook a remediation effort several years ago to beautify its real-estate holdings and create an avant-garde retail experience that is now known as The Fort Common. This collection of businesses, which include a who’s-who of local merchants, are centred around a tranquil public courtyard that has become a destination in its own right.
“With The Fort Common reinvigorating the western portion of our block with an eclectic mix of eateries, shops and services, ourselves and our neighbours at Parc Retirement Living would like to build on that positivity and uniquely Victorian, independent character that Fort Properties has achieved,” Fung said.
|819-825 Fort Street is the second project by The Salient Group slated for Antique Row. The 10-storey tower will be comprised of 100 rental apartments with retail and office spaces. The Salient Group|
To get the conversation started, The Salient Group will be monitoring feedback on social media channels discussing the future of Fort Street, including Citified’s Facebook page and that of its sister website's Facebook page, VibrantVictoria, and on VibrantVictoria's discussion forum. Individuals wishing to speak with The Salient Group directly can email the company with their thoughts, questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leasing enquiries can be forwarded to the same email address.
“Our approach is always to try and understand what is in the hearts and minds of the people that really value a place, and to reconcile this with the needs of those that will populate the community we are creating. Feedback and ideas are always welcome,” Fung says.
Individuals wishing to comment on the future of Fort Street and to share their ideas of an ideal mix of commercial services can head to Citified’s Facebook post pertaining to this article here, and on VibrantVictoria here. To leave a comment via Twitter, click here for Citified’s account and here for VibrantVictoria’s. To engage in the discussion on VibrantVictoria’s forum, click here.
Meanwhile, individuals interested in submitting an application for a rental apartment at The Sawyer Block, with its 60 studio and one-bedroom residences slated for completion this winter, can connect with The Salient Group’s rental team here. The Sawyer Block's efficient layouts, central location and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation-supported below-market rental rates have made the building popular to a diverse range of urbanites, young professionals and downtown workers.
The upcoming 100-suite rental building at 819-825 Fort Street is earmarked for a construction start next year. The rental application process will begin closer to the building's completion in 2023. C
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- View The Salient Group's website here
- To privately connect with The Salient Group to discuss the future of Antique Row, click here
- Join the discussion on the future of Antique Row through Citified's Facebook page here, VibrantVictoria's Facebook page here, and the VibrantVictoria discussion forum here
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