Monday’s announcement that the much-maligned Janion building has been purchased for redevelopment is a good sign for the prospects of downtown Victoria.
Reliance Properties’ updating of the 1891 building – a run-down eyesore for decades – will go a long way toward revitalizing a part of town which, for years, has been a study in contrasts, with the presence of social services agencies and the high-traffic tourist draws of Chinatown and Lower Johnson.
In combination with Reliance’s proposed development of the Northern Junk buildings land across Johnson Street, Anthem Properties’ Union residential/retail project slated for the lot behind Swan’s Hotel and Brew Pub, and the construction of the new bridge, the Janion project has the potential to help bring hundreds of new residents and shoppers to downtown’s northern waterfront.
The tricky part of creating any new housing project in Victoria is balancing the socio-economic mix. Victoria council, especially Mayor Dean Fortin, is fully on board with adding to the supply of affordable housing in the city – whether that’s ‘get-people-off-the-street’ rental units or modestly priced spaces for first-time home buyers.
While the plans for the Janion and an adjacent waterfront property are still just an idea, Reliance may yet win points with the politicians by proposing units priced to appeal to individuals or couples with modest incomes.
Regardless of how the Janion project emerges, this area has the potential to be transformed, from a sometimes scary zone to a vibrant addition to the downtown business and residential district.
In five or six years, the waterfront skyline of the city in the area will be drastically changed. While the alterations won’t be on the scale of say, Vancouver’s False Creek or Seattle’s warehouse district, we think the combined changes will give Victoria more reasons to live, work and shop downtown.
It’s all a sign that our little city is growing up.