As a major residential and commercial development proposal in Saanich heads toward a public hearing, the fate of a 108-year-old building housing three neighbourhood businesses on a portion of the property is uncertain.
The building at 4291 Glanford Ave. that is home to the Bird Liquor Store, the Bird Pub and Good Fellas cigar shop – in previous years it housed the Bird of Paradise neighbourhood pub – does not figure into plans to put a multi-building, 252-unit development on three separate lots.
While some suggest moving the building to another part of the combined property could be the answer, the rezoning and development permit applications from Mike Geric Construction appear to leave little room for such a relocation.
While the building is not designated heritage, it is one of the older structures in the area, built in 1914 by the pioneer Tubman family in the early days of Saanich’s settlement.
Dave Beaton, who lives directly across Glanford Avenue, wrote to council before an April 25 vote forwarded the development proposal to public hearing.
While he voiced safety concerns with the addition of hundreds of new residents to an area where traffic congestion is often an issue – the confluence of Mann Avenue, Glanford and Quadra Street/West Saanich Road – he worries about the future of the old building.
Many older buildings in Saanich have, for one reason or another, been torn down “before earning the esteemed status as heritage,” he wrote. Beaton said the community’s concern about the development was illustrated in 2021 when the words “Save the house” were spray-painted on a sign about the rezoning application.
A regular who got to know the staff and ownership well during his recovery from a broken neck, Beaton became aware of the strong sense of community around the ground floor pub, as well as the liquor store and cigar shop that operate in the former pub space on the main floor.
Ideally, he’d like to see the Geric proposal incorporate the old building on site as a walkable amenity that would also reduce the potential for impaired drivers in the area.
“If they could come to some sort of agreement, it could be a win-win situation, that’s what I’m hopeful for,” Beaton told Black Press Media later in an interview.
As the building is not designated heritage – current owner Diego Trozzo said he chose not to pursue the distinction – the Saanich Heritage Foundation has not stepped in. That said, the foundation understands the importance of the building and its various businesses to the neighbourhood and is aware of the development proposal, president Veronica McEllister told Black Press Media in an email.
The old building’s future was not front and centre during the April 25 meeting. The biggest issues raised by councillors were the need for more below-market housing units and the potential loss of industrial land. The pub and liquor store lot is zoned C-14 (neighbourhood public house), while the others, currently home to Island Mediquip and Swain Moving and Storage, are M-3 (industrial park).
While the proposal, which includes a daycare facility, intends to retain about five per cent of the land for light industrial uses, a staff report noted what is lost in the plans is land available to build more light industrial buildings.
Trozzo said he would like to continue operating the pub and liquor store but has had no luck finding a suitable spot to move the building if it came to that.
Longtime staffer Danielle Trosko, who lives upstairs, is one of roughly 20 people currently employed at the three businesses, including her daughter. She’s worried not only about her job and living arrangement, but for the staff.
“It’s been causing me a lot of anxiety,” she said. “We’re all like a big family here.”
The building also holds emotional meaning for Trozzo, who bought it in 1985 as both his home and a site for his automotive business. The Bird of Paradise pub operated on the main level from 1991 to 2014, after which the liquor store moved upstairs and in 2019 a smaller pub opened on the lower level.
The date for the public hearing on the proposal has not yet been set. More details about the proposal can be found online at bit.ly/3LcRrfM.
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