After an extensive and elongated process, the City of Victoria has granted final approval to Harris Green Village, one of the largest development projects in Victoria that was originally proposed by Toronto-based Starlight Investments just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starlight acquired the properties on 903, 911, and 1045 Yates Street as well as those on 910 View Street and 1205 and 1209 Quadra Street in 2019, began consultation with community members in June 2019, and started the pre-application process with the City in December 2019, before officially submitting a development application in 2020.
The development process was then delayed last year as a result of the municipal election and administration change. A public hearing for the project was then held on February 16, when Council asked Starlight for several changes to the project, ahead of receiving official approval, which was granted on April 6.
Harris Green Village site context map. (City of Victoria)
Harris Green Village
Starlight's project will see one-and-a-half city blocks rezoned in order to build a mixed-use community that would include much-needed purpose-built rental housing, commercial space, office space, and daycare uses, all of which would be delivered across five towers over 20-storeys and three phases.
Phase One, which also received the green light last week, will be focused on the eastern site, 1045 Yates Street, which is currently occupied by a car dealership, and would see a 21-storey and 20-storey building built in its place, for a total of 526 rental units, 80 of which will be secured at affordable rates.
The two towers would sit atop a shared podium that will also house a daycare, and commercial space on Yates Street and Cook Street. Additionally, six townhouses will also front View Street.
The exact breakdown of the second and third phase has not been finalized, but will focus on the western portion of the Harris Green Village site, the 900 block of Yates Street, and will see a 29-storey, 32-storey, and 28-storey building built on a site that's currently occupied by numerous retailers, including a London Drugs store.
The 29-storey tower will sit above its own podium, which will house commercial space along Yates Street, Quadra Street, and View Street. The podium is also expected to house the office component, at the corner of Yates Street and Quadra Street.
The remaining two towers, the 32-storey (which would be the tallest building on Vancouver Island) and 28-storey towers, will then share a second podium, which will again have commercial space on the ground floor along Yates Street, as well as additional townhouses on View Street and Vancouver Street. A 170,000+ sq. ft public plaza will also run between the two podiums, connecting Yates Street and View Street.
Phase Two and Three of Harris Green Village. (Starlight Investments / IBI Group)
An existing rental building on 990 View Street will be redeveloped as part of these latter two phases, resulting in the loss of 15 rental units, but those tenants will be protected by the City's Tenant Assistance Policy. In a report from July 2021, the City also noted that Starlight Investments is "in some ways exceeding policy expectations by offering full moving expenses and the assistance of a tenant relocation coordinator to non-eligible tenants [...] in addition to providing compensation, moving expenses, right of first refusal at 10% below-market rent, and relocation assistance" to eligible tenants.
Regarding parking and transportation, many of the changes Council requested in February were focused on these issues, with Council requesting, among other things, that Starlight increase the amount of bicycle parking stalls, ensure that half of those spaces can support electric-bicycle charging, add bicycle support facilities, and reduce the amount of vehicle parking stalls from 0.52 per unit to 0.34 per unit for the latter two phases of the project.
Starlight has said that it will meet most of the requests, although some only partially. Instead of reducing vehicle stalls to 0.34 per unit in the second and third phase, it will lease unused stalls to members of the public, and instead of providing car-less tenants a bus pass for up to three months, it will provide 100 bus tickets to every unit without a leased parking stall.
An overview of Harris Green Village. (Starlight Investments / IBI Group)
Toronto-based IBI Group is serving as the architect and planner for the project, and describe the overall vision for Harris Green Village as "a community with a wide range of uses and a dynamic mix of activities that celebrates the diverse residents of the neighbourhood.
The architects also say that "the public realm is of primary importance" and that the project's public spaces will be "the heart of the development and the heart of the surrounding neighbourhood."
In a press release on Monday, announcing the approval, Starlight Investments Executive Director of Developments Shauna Dudding reiterated the sentiments, while also highlighting the important need of rental housing in the Harris Green neighbourhood.
"Harris Green Village represents a unique opportunity to create a vibrant, urban, mixed-use community that is both diverse and inclusive," she said. "Purpose-built rentals are a critical aspect of the revitalization of this neighbourhood and we are honoured to be an integral part of the process."