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If you have been following our blog’s you know there are many projects in the Greater Victoria Real Estate Area. One of these projects is the Roundhouse project. This will be a very exciting project and will turn the Roundhouse site into a “Victoria’s Granville Island”. Like most project there are a lot of work to be done before it will get a green light. A recent article by Carolyn Heiman, Times Colonist reads:

In search of ideas for railway roundhouse site

Developer holding low-key meetings with Vic West residents

Ken Mariash estimates his company has talked to 5,000 people about development ideas for the historic railway roundhouse property off Esquimalt Road.

But if the developer has a concrete vision for the 4.25-hectare parcel, which includes a National Historic Site, he’s not saying much about it.

“Everything is in transition,” Mariash said this week. “We have been talking with the community for the last few years very softly. We are gathering input on roundhouse uses and how to make it a centrepiece for the Vic West community.”

Each week, Roundhouse Properties Limited Partnership, which has a contract to purchase the property from Canadian Pacific Railway, sends out invitations to Vic West residents and stakeholder groups such as heritage and transportation advocates. Some of the meetings attract just a few people, others 10 or 15.

“We don’t want to muscle or dominate the discussion,” said Mariash, who is also the head of Bayview Developments, now developing an adjacent parcel of land.

Mariash says he wants to focus on uses for the site, rather than shapes of buildings. “Will there be office space or not? Retail or not? That’s best done without physical shapes.”

Nonetheless, a rezoning submission to the city of Victoria in January gives a skeletal idea of options the company is toying with for the parcel, the site of E & N Railway Days celebrations this weekend.

In addition to revitalization of the five heritage railway buildings, the plan lays out options for residential towers south of the historic buildings. Restaurants, a pub, a railway interpretative area, food market, community offices and artisan spaces are on the list of uses. The plan also notes the possibility of a railway station should a long-dreamed-about rail service emerge between the Western Communities and downtown Victoria.

Mariash, who expects development of the project to take place over 10 years, has brought in architect Norman Hotson to work on the project. Hotson’s firm, Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden Architects + Urbanistes, worked on Vancouver’s Granville Island and rehabilitation of Vancouver’s 1888 CPR Roundhouse as a pavilion for Expo 86. That roundhouse building now serves as a community centre.

While Mariash shies away from project specifics, he is clear on one thing: It will cost a lot of money to develop the contaminated industrial site, which contains partially condemned heritage buildings.

The submission to the city puts the costs of remediating contaminated soil on the site at $12 million. Rehabilitation of the E & N Roundhouse buildings is estimated at between $8 and $11.3 million, with an additional $6 million for internal building improvements to accommodate new uses.

“New development must be concentrated largely on the lands south of the existing E & N rail corridor and must generate sufficient revenue to defray the costs of achieving the revitalization of the historic precinct…,” notes the report to the city.

In exchange for saving the rare intact railyard designed in 1912 — with industrial roots going back to the era of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir — the developer wants to build larger buildings than would normally be allowed on one part of the site. Mariash says the overall density wouldn’t exceed what’s already permitted in the Songhees area. The plan submitted to the city mentions buildings with heights of 16, 18 and 20 storeys, although a city planner said none of the project details has been finalized and the application is in “flux.”

Diane Carr, land-use chairwoman of the Vic West Community Association, is guarded about commenting on the proposal.

“We did some planning with [the developer] in the beginning but we didn’t get into issues such as [building] heights,” Carr said. “Probably the heights they are talking about will be a problem.”

But Carr notes the community is short of commercial development and some of Mariash’s ideas are welcome.

Heritage advocates met with Roundhouse Properties last week to discuss the project.

Rick Goodacre, executive director of the Heritage Society of B.C., said some people have talked about a railway museum on the site “but that’s not very realistic. The costs are large.”

Goodacre is primarily concerned that the five heritage railway buildings stay intact, but concedes developments have to be financially viable. “How it is going to do that is something the owner has to figure out,” he said, adding many heritage interpretation sites lose money. “That’s not a success story.”

Mariash said he commissioned a study that found a museum would require a $2-million subsidy.

He added, however, that he expects railway artifacts will be incorporated in the site, along with interpretive material. End of article.

Do you have any ideas about the Roundhouse site?

We would love to hear your comments. Just leave a comment below. If you have any questions about Victoria Real Estate in General, you can contact us anytime. 

Cheers, Anders

Anders Treiberg, Associate Broker, REALTOR®

Properties in Victoria Professionals-Royal LePage Coast Capital.

Anders Treiberg has been a REALTOR® in Victoria since 1990. He has extensive Real Estate Expertise and can be reached on his website  or via email at anders@PropertiesInVictoria.com

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