A rehashed development proposal for the Admiral Inn property is neither safe, affordable, nor appropriate.
A 10-YEAR-OLD PROPOSAL TO REDEVELOP the Admiral Inn property at 257 Belleville, where Belleville Street turns into Pendray, has been revised and submitted to Victoria city council for renewal. The original proposal was strongly opposed by local residents, but was nevertheless approved by city council. This time, there has been no notification of the application to local residents, although one of the principles of the City’s Strategic Housing Plan is to “empower residents and community organizations through shared advocacy, mutual support and ongoing dissemination of information.”
If this proposal goes through, the resulting building will be called The Blight on Belleville. The lot where Admiral Inn is situated is small and the proposed replacement will occupy the entire lot. It will be 100 feet high and contain condominiums selling in the millions. That will be a financial windfall for the developer but a disaster for the neighbourhood.
Development proposal for 257 Belleville Street near Laurel Point Inn
The proposed building fails to satisfy goals laid out in the City of Victoria Strategic Housing Plan, which is focused on increasing the availability of “safe, affordable, and appropriate housing.”
It is neither safe, affordable, nor appropriate.
(1) Affordability: The Admiral Inn site is not the place for more for high-end luxury condos. Page 12 of the Strategic Plan emphasizes that the city doesn’t “need more housing that is out of reach of the average income earner.”
(2) Safety: Major issues of accessibility and safety will arise during and after construction. During construction, Cross Street—the main entrance to Laurel Point Condominiums for residents, family, visitors, taxies, caregivers, mail delivery, and emergency vehicles—could be blocked. Later Cross street would be blocked by moving vans, service vehicles, and garbage collection. Exiting Cross Street onto Pendray or Quebec street is dangerous even under normal conditions. Admiral Inn blocks lines of sight to the left and one must look far back over the right shoulder to see approaching vehicles from the right. Quebec and Pendray are the main pedestrian route for cruise ship passengers walking from Ogden Point to Downtown and there is extensive pedestrian traffic through the cruise season. Residential development of the large parking lot on Quebec street will only increase the traffic burden.
(3) Appropriate: The proposed building would stand out like a sore thumb. Unlike other condominiums and townhouses in the neighbourhood, it would have no green space and clashes with the architectural style of other buildings in the area.
And yet there is opportunity. City council has two options—they can take the easy way, accept the current proposal as is; or, refer the proposal back to the Advisory Design Panel in City Planning.
If council does the latter, it opens new possibilities for enhancing the local neighbourhood rather than just throwing up another monster building. I have written to Mayor Helps and city councillors with a win-win suggestion in three modular parts:
(1) That the new building be restricted to five stories and aimed at mid-market rather than luxury condominiums. This provides the developer with a fair profit.
(2) Staging of equipment for construction will necessarily be on Pendray between Belleville and Quebec streets. Afterwards, why not convert this section of Pendray to green space with bicycle and pedestrian paths only. Traffic would be rerouted up Oswego and onto Quebec or Superior streets. This alleviates much of the traffic problems currently besetting drivers exiting from Cross Street.
(3) That the entrance for the underground parking and space for service vehicles of the new building be at the end of Belleville street. This would further eliminate traffic problems on Cross Street.
This is a tremendous opportunity if council is truly interested in keeping Victoria, and the James Bay neighbourhood attractive for the many visitors who travel to this beautiful city. The new green space, and new building would be among the first things seen by visitors arriving on the Victoria Clipper or the Coho, and would be directly on the path for cruise ship passengers walking from Ogden Point to Downtown. What better way to introduce people to our city?
Burton Voorhees, a professor emeritus at Athabasca University, is a James Bay, Victoria resident.