The University of Victoria development partner behind a hotel proposal in Victoria’s historic downtown says its most recent designs are within Old Town Design guidelines. (Black Press Media file photo)

Old Town hotel developer says full retention of historic buildings ‘impossible’

UVic development partner says past renovations, seismic instability are barriers

The developer behind a hotel proposed in Victoria’s downtown core says it is working to balance structural resilience and heritage retention in the Old Town block.

Chard Developments became the University of Victoria’s development partner after the institution was gifted the properties at 1306-1324 Broad St. by Michael Williams. The proposal spans the 1892-built Duck’s Building and the adjacent “Canada Hotel” – both of which would be demolished save for several masonry walls.

READ ALSO: Victoria hotel proposal threatens Old Town conservation, advocates say

Chard’s current hotel proposal for a five-storey building along Broad Street and six-storey building at the corner of Broad and Johnson streets received unanimous support from the City of Victoria’s Heritage Advisory Panel. On Feb. 6, Victoria council voted 5-3 in favour of pushing the design ahead to a public hearing.

In response to concerns of local Old Town conservation advocates, Chard points to plans for “rehabilitation of the historically significant elements” of the old buildings on the block, including retaining the east and west exterior walls of the Duck’s building and the western rubble stone wall of the Canada Hotel.

According to Chard, full retention of the historic buildings is impossible thanks to an “unusually large floor plate” and recent changes to the BC Building Code. Chard also says interior renovations and a fire have made any kind of restoration difficult.

While the buildings won’t be retained in their entirety, Chard says the design for new construction meets the City of Victoria’s Old Town Design Guidelines by being “complementary yet subordinate” to historic elements, allowing the Duck’s building to “truly take centre stage.”

Dave Chard told Black Press Media that seismic upgrades will preserve what remains of the original structure.

“This building currently does not meet any sort of seismic requirements,” he said. “It’s a building that has aged and it has not been overly well maintained.

“Under the new B.C. building code and seismic requirements we are building this building up to 100 per cent of the current code.”

READ ALSO: New downtown Victoria hotel slated to replace two heritage buildings

Chard said his team will also try to salvage other interior features, such as “brick, timber floor joists, subfloors, flooring, doors, trim work and decorative elements” for reuse in the updated building or elsewhere.

Earlier editions of the developer’s proposal sought variances up to 7.5 metres but the proposal has since been revised to only one foot above the Duck building’s current height.

“It would bring more than 134 much-needed hotel rooms plus supporting retail to Old Town,” the developer writes in a document given to Black Press Media. “It would bring economic vitality and significant employment benefits to the City, creating 156 full-time jobs for Victorians.”

A date for the public hearing is yet to be set.

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