British Columbia

Controversial redevelopment plan would see Victoria's Old Town heritage building demolished

A redevelopment plan has been proposed for the historic Ducks Building in Victoria, B.C.'s 'Old Town.' But a heritage advocate is speaking out against it because another heritage building next door would be demolished to make way for the new development.

Developers say they will maintain building's historic rubble stone wall

The historic Ducks Building and Canada Hotel on Victoria's Broad Street are facing redevelopment. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A redevelopment plan has been proposed for the historic Ducks Building in Victoria, B.C.'s Old Town. But a heritage advocate is speaking out against it, because another heritage building next door would be demolished to make way for the new development.

Ducks Building is located on Broad Street in downtown Victoria. The neighbouring Canada Hotel would be demolished. The 1892 building is owned by UVic Properties and is on the city's heritage registry and on the national registry of historic places. 

The new redevelopment proposal by Chard Development would replace the two buildings with a 139 room hotel. 

Pamela Madoff, a heritage advocate and former Victoria city councillor, says the old hotel is too valuable a piece of Old Town history to be demolished.

"The demolition of that building would be the first time a building with such heritage credentials would have been considered for demolition and nothing like this has happened in Old Town since the 1980s," Madoff told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On the Island

Notice of Ducks Building redevelopment proposal. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The Canada Hotel has been changed substantially over the years and looks significantly different than its original form. But Madoff says this doesn't mean it's not a good candidate for rehabilitation. She cites Dragon Alley in Victoria's Chinatown, which used to be in ruins, as an example. It is now completely rehabilitated and a popular draw for tourists.

The overall Chard project would preserve the facade of the original Ducks Building and Canada Hotel. But Madoff says it's not enough. 

"If we start allowing property owners to demolish buildings in Old Town because it suits them, we're not going to have anything to be proud of in the future."

The plan

Dave Chard, founder of Chard Development, says he's sympathetic to these concerns but sees no other way.

"Unfortunately, there have been unsympathetic alterations done in that building. Mostly, they were done back in the 1950s," Chard said. 

Canada Hotel's rubble stone wall will be maintained, according to the developer. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Chard says the developer's structural engineer and a heritage consultant went through the building and came to the conclusion that it is not structurally capable of being maintained, and that there are no significant historic aspects of the building aside from a rubble stone wall. 

Chard says the developer will maintain the wall, which was originally built in 1874, and keep it as an integral part of the property.

The developer also has to work with new seismic and building codes required by the City of Victoria.

"It would basically be impossible to try to keep this and maintain and develop a building that's going to be safe for many years to come."

Chard says the new hotel plan is a good fit for the historic neighbourhood and for downtown Victoria as it will bring in tourists. 

"I think it's really going to help to revitalize and maintain Old Town as a vital energetic area."

The proposal was discussed by Victoria city council on Thursday, and will be discussed again at the next council meeting.

A date for a public hearing has not yet been set. 

With files from On the Island


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