Graduate students will have to make alternative plans for housing after the University of Victoria scrapped the idea to build student housing in downtown Victoria.
A 2017 development proposal for the buildings at 1312, 1314 and 1324 Broad Street, as well as 615-625 Johnson Street was slated to house 59 units reserved for graduate students, as well as 104 market-level condos and several retail spaces. Now, however, UVic Properties and partnering developer, Chard Development have proposed to instead convert the properties into a hotel.
“Since the first proposal we’ve heard a lot of things that we could do better,” said Peter Kuran, CEO and president of UVic Properties. “Among other things, the question came up if we really had to sell the land; were there other options?”
The properties were donated to the University of Victoria by the late Michael Williams in 2000, who wished to add to the vibrancy of the city while ensuring the school had ongoing financial returns.
Building a hotel would follow with both of these priorities, Kuran said.
“This gives us something we can really feel proud of, and that Michael Williams would feel proud of too.”
Another contributor to the switch came when the province donated $200 million to UVic in November 2018 to build 620 new on-campus beds for students.
“This opens up a lot of options for students, and also to the surrounding community,” Kuran said.
On-campus beds are reserved for undergraduate students, but Kuran argued that if more undergrads move on-campus, more off-campus units would become available for graduate students.
The first public meeting in regards to the hotel was held at the City of Victoria’s Community Association Land Use Committee on May 14, and received mostly positive feedback from local business owners.
Now that feedback will be taken into account before UVic Properties and Chard Development submit a rezoning and development permit application to the City. So far, early plans hope to keep the outward facade of the buildings including that of the heritage Ducks Building, which was built in 1892.
Shovels are likely to hit the ground for the project in 2021.
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