GMG Projects vice-president of development, Tonny Kiptoo, perches atop the loft ladder in a suite in the Adelphi Block. An original back-of-building cigarette ad was discovered and preserved and adds a unique decorative element to the room. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Heritage revitalization project in downtown Victoria a labour of love for developers

The tiny Adelphi Block offers unique living spaces, urban lifestyle on busy Old Town corner

Residential development projects have many technical and financial considerations, whether they’re a new build, a restoration or rehabilitation. Sometimes, a project comes along that becomes a labour of love for those involved.

For Jordan Milne and GMC Projects, an example is their revitalization of the Adelphi Block, a three-storey 1891 heritage structure standing like a sentinel at the edge of Victoria’s Old Town at Government and Yates streets. More showcase than moneymaking project, Milne says, the finished product combines enhanced old-world charm and character with modern conveniences and downtown living.

Almost like proud parents, company CEO and president Milne and his brother-in-law, Tonny Kiptoo, GMC’s vice-president of development, were all smiles leading a guided tour through the three-suite rental residence.

The rehabilitated Adelphi Block building at Yates and Government streets. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Climbing the central staircase to the first floor, the visitor is greeted by a full-wall Lydia Beauregard art piece. Its central message, “Welcome Home,” is surrounded by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra of “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe.”

Every GMC property has a welcome home sign, says Milne, whose company only creates rental housing. He says renters are not second-class citizens and deserve respect every bit as much as homeowners.

“We want people to be proud of where they live, we want them to feel welcome and we want them to feel equal like anybody else,” he said.

There are plenty of challenging aspects to a heritage revitalization project like this, such as how and whether to upcycle original elements like rough-sawn timbers in an updated design (they did that). Some discoveries add to the fun, as in when the project team uncovered an original sign when “unbuilding” this structure.

While the paint-on-brick sales pitch for “cigarettes” – now lacquered to ensure its longevity – doesn’t promote a healthy activity, its presence on one wall of the 463-square-foot studio loft apartment makes for a cool throwback element. It was one of many reasons a local architect who toured the building before completion insisted he be considered first for the suite – the 500-sq.ft. open-air deck off the kitchen was another.

Each of the three suites features such modern amenities as built-in dishwashers and laundry facilities, solid core doors, efficient mini-split heat pumps, dimmable lighting, and modern bathroom and shower facilities. It’s like night and day given these floors sat vacant for years.

“I view the building as kind of a jewelry box with these sort of three sets of jewels inside being the units, so it was really important for us to ensure that the quality of the interiors was represented well,” Milne said. “We wanted to leave a legacy of what we can do for the city on such a prominent corner.”

ALSO READ: New development will pay homage to fallen World War One pilot

Surrounded by various treatments of late-19th century and early 20th-century buildings, the Adelphi, with its Greek ionic exterior columns, is a calling card for GMC Projects. Named for the Adelphi Saloon once located across the street, the word is Greek for brotherhood, which added to the appeal of the undertaking for this family-owned and operated development company.

“There’s just so much importance to these buildings in our city,” Milne said. “There’s older heritage buildings that don’t have a huge amount of character defining elements. This is not one of them.

“We feel a strong commitment to trying to restore and revive buildings that have that sense of architectural significance within the city – those landmark type of places that people have seen for decades. But to be given the opportunity to breathe new life into them and extend their use for many more years, we feel it’s a really important part of what creates a sense of place within our communities.”

These custom suites rent for between $1,800 and $2,000 a month and tenants begin moving in Sept. 15. The commercial space on the ground floor, for decades home to Field’s Shoes, is expected to open up this fall.

ALSO READ: 20-storey hotel proposed for downtown Victoria


 

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