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Glass-panelled redevelopment eyed for Old Town heritage buildings in Victoria

Revised plans would level an already heavily altered heritage structure
A rendering of a five-storey mixed-use proposal along Johnson Street dealing with two heritage buildings. (Courtesy of Studio 531 architects inc.)

Two heritage structures in Old Town are set to see some changes as one of the Johnson Street structures no longer holds historical value, and as new housing and commercial activity is envisioned for the site.

The plans look to build a five-storey mixed-use development that would require the Shotbolt Chemist Building, which is currently on the city’s heritage registry, at 589 Johnson St. to be torn down.

A new L-shaped building that will be four-storeys high along Johnson Street would wrap behind the W.G. Cameron building (579 Johnson St.), which was built in 1888 and is also a heritage structure.

The single-storey Shotbolt structure, built in 1876, housed a pharmacy until 1957. It’s already been heavily altered and most of its original character has vanished, the city said, adding its current condition wouldn’t qualify for being on the heritage registry.

The proposal calls the new building’s facade design contemporary as it pitches a steel structure and glass panels which would look to be a nod to the glass bottles and shelves of the chemist building.

The redevelopment aims to create 24 residential units and five commercial spaces. The two-storey W.G. Cameron building will receive seismic upgrades and add three one-bedroom units to its second floor, while the ground-level retail space would remain.

Councillors at Victoria’s June 8 committee of the whole meeting approved the project’s heritage alteration permits, which includes starting the process of adding the W.G. Cameron building’s original exterior to the heritage registry. The city calls that intact facade “an excellent example of Victoria’s commercial development from the 19th century.”

“This commercial building is valued for its retention of elements which made it one of the most modern and functional buildings in the city at the time of its construction: an attractive street presence, and well-lit interior spaces,” a statement of significance on the building reads.

When the application came forward last September, the council of the day called for more work on setbacks and for the ground floor street frontage to be more consistent with the city’s Old Town Design Guidelines. The previous council also requested the project go back to the Heritage Advisory Panel “for consideration of how it responds to the rest of the streetscape in regards to colour and character.”

After looking at the new plans, the heritage panel recommended in February that the revised plans be approved.

READ: ‘Utterly irresponsible’: View Royal mayor faces criticism for motion to pause new development

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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