November 3, 2023

Plans approved for 20-storey tower at Pandora and Quadra

The third attempt proved to be the charm for developer Townline Homes, as Victoria council Thursday approved re-submitted plans to redevelop the northwest corner of the intersection of Quadra Street and Pandora Avenue with a 20-storey tower.

Townline, the developer behind the Hudson project, has cleared the first council hurdle toward establishing the mixed-use project, which includes 197 rental units and just over 7,000 square feet of commercial space on the site of 854, 858 and 880 Pandora Ave.
The site is currently home to low-rise commercial buildings.

The tower would be set back from a three-storey structure with retail units on the ground floor facing Pandora Avenue. and Quadra Street. The project also includes townhouses that face Mason Street.

The latest revision of the project increases the height of the tower from 14 storeys and the number of residential rental units from 137.

Council voted 7-2 to move forward with the project, which was previously submitted in March and then May.

Only councillors Chris Coleman and Marg Gardiner voted against the project, saying they wanted a public hearing on the proposal.

Both say they support the project, but thought the public should have a say.

“Large projects should go through a public hearing, and this is one of them,” said Gardiner.

There was little debate over the merits or suitability of the project, though councillors did make minor changes to the amount of space afforded to mobility scooters. They also suggested Townline might want to take advantage of a new tax break if it wanted to provide more affordable housing units.
“We’re in a housing crisis. We have approved thousands of homes in our term, but unfortunately many, many thousands are required in order to get us back to a vacancy rate that is roughly balanced,” said Coun. Dave Thompson.

The current vacancy rate for the purpose-built rental market in Greater Victoria is 1.5 per cent, according to CMHC.

Townline signalled it will include five below-market affordable rental units, though council suggested that could be increased to 10 per cent under the recently adopted revitalization tax exemption bylaw. That bylaw, which encourages the inclusion of more-affordable units in new market-priced rental projects, provides a 10-year break on property taxes.

Under the exemption, developers delivering new rental stock would pay property taxes based on the existing land value, while getting a 10-year break on the land improvements provided by the new housing projects.

The bulk of the feedback the city received about the project from nearby residents was positive, with most suggesting it will help change the character of a neighbourhood where homeless people tend to congregate.

Many services for the unhoused are located in the 900-block of Pandora, which is at times home to a tent city.

Har Singh, one of the owners of a mixed-use building in the 900-block of Pandora, said the proposed development should bring in a number of new working and retired residents “to help improve the character of the neighbourhood, and [create] a more balanced and vibrant community.”

Another writer asked that the tower be placed at the west end of the building site away from the corner of Pandora and Quadra, so the neighbouring low-rise buildings would not be in its shadow.

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