After a two-year wait, renovations are proceeding on the former Traveller’s Inn at 120 Gorge Rd. E., purchased by the City of Victoria in 2010 to create affordable housing.
Renovations will likely begin in the next couple of weeks on the smaller of the two structures on the lot.
The larger building has a different fate. Two months ago, stakeholders agreed to demolish and rebuild.
“The cost of the renovation on the three-storey building was so close to building new, it made more sense to build to suit,” said Bruce Parisian, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. “I’m ecstatic.”
With help from various funders, the city will convert the old motel into subsidized housing for aboriginal tenants, with the Friendship Centre overseeing operations.
It is the second conversion of its kind for the city. Last month, renovations were completed on Queens Manor, another former Traveller’s Inn.
Parisian sees many advantages to building new, rather than renovating the whole motel.
“When you build to suit, obviously it’s a lot better living conditions,” he said. It will also allow for two- and possibly three-bedroom units for larger families.
Plans for the new building also include a common room, where the Friendship Centre can host celebrations and operate such programs as cooking classes.
“We call it the village,” Parisian said. “We want the community to be able to meet and support one another.”
The timeline for the new portion of the housing complex is unclear, as it requires community consultation.
Renovations to the existing building, however, will progress much faster. Parisian hopes to see the facility operational by the end of next year.
“These studio units will be housing for aboriginal youth coming out of care, or for very young families with one child, or grandmothers raising grandchildren,” he said.
To date, 70 people have taken a course called ready-to-rent, in anticipation of living in the building.
In total, the city has budgeted $1.1 million for the job, which represents a middle ground figure between the city’s original estimate of $400,000 and the friendship centre’s estimate of $4 million.
Funding will come from the Victoria Housing Trust Reserve ($390,000), Capital Regional District Housing ($100,000) and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ($624,000).