British Columbia

Victoria considers 29-storey condo — island's tallest — for downtown

The developer is asking the city for a height variance to build a 29-storey condo building — but some on council say the building does not fit with Victoria's downtown plan.

Currently, the tallest building in Victoria is a 21-store condo

The City of Victoria has few skyscrapers, and its tallest building is a 21-storey condominium. (Shutterstock)

A developer hopes the City of Victoria will approve its application to build what would be the tallest building on Vancouver Island.

Townline has requested a height variance on its condo project on the site of the former Hudson's Bay parkade in Victoria's downtown.

Justin Filuk, Townline's director of development, says the request for a 29-storey, 84 metre tall building is to accommodate the approved density on what he called a "challenged" site.The developer already has approval for a 24-storey project.

"It's an L-shaped parcel. It's not very deep in some aspects," he explained. "Placing some of our density on the upper stories yielded what we feel is a better urban design experience at the street level."

Filuk says with the added height, the company would be able to build spacious plazas at the lower levels, create better view lines and natural lighting for upper floors while maintaining high levels of density.

A city of few skyscrapers

If built, the 29-storey, 84 metre building would be the island's tallest. Currently, the tallest building in the city is a 21-storey, 66 metre high condo. A 27-storey condo, 76 metres tall, in Nanaimo is currently Vancouver Island's tallest.

There are fewer than 20 highrise buildings over 50 metres in the capital city, although the city introduced new zoning rules for the downtown district that increased maximum building heights to 72 metres

A rendering of Townline's proposed condo building. (Townline)

Filuk says the new building is a chance to be part of downtown Victoria's evolving — taller — skyline.

"We're going to be the first development that achieves that height, possibly beyond that," said Filuk.

"Downtown Victoria is becoming a much more interesting place and a place where businesses want to start and people want to live."

'Project needs to be brought back down to earth'

Not everyone, however, is on board with Townline's proposal.

Victoria Coun. Ben Issit says even though the city approved higher building heights, this building is inconsistent with the city's downtown vision.

"I think this project needs to be brought back down to earth to a more livable scale recognizing that Victoria is not a metropolis and development should be pursued more in line with a midline approach to densification," he said.

Another councillor, Pam Madoff, concurred.

"Once you start to say 29 [storeys] is OK, what's wrong with 35 [storeys] and what's the difference if you're at 35 to 45 [storeys]? Is that the kind of city we want to be?"

But Mayor Lisa Helps says it's too early to reject the height increase outright. 

"Do we want a building built right out to the lot lines with no green space, with no livability, with no breathing room or are we willing to entertain a bit of extra height? Is 29 storeys the right number? I don't know," she said.

The approval process for the height variance will likely take a few months.

With files from All Points West


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