Sidney veterans fight off large downtown development idea

The proposal dates back to 2008, when the Town of Sidney created its local area plans for various parts of the community.

Sidney’s local area plan for the 3rd and 4th street north block shows conceptual drawings for a town square.

Members of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans’ Association (ANAVETS) have fended off a proposal that might have seen a massive redevelopment of a portion of downtown Sidney.

In late April, their membership were asked to consider a plan, very much in its infancy, that would see the razing of at least four buildings between 3rd and 4th streets, bordering Sidney Avenue and facing the existing town hall.

Art Finlayson, of Finlayson Bonet Architecture of Central Saanich, says they asked ANAVETS members iif they liked the idea. It would have meant selling the property and either having to move or moving into a much different space.

That meeting set off a series of emails and rumours that even Finlayson said he’d heard.

“They said no,” Finlayson told the PNR. “They didn’t want to do it. It died with ANAVETS.”

Finlayson said the proposal dates back to 2008, when the Town of Sidney created its local area plans for various parts of the community. Those plans set out long-term revitalization goals in Sidney’s downtown core, with a focus on “a high level of design for buildings and public space.”

The 3rd/4th street block north area plan set out a conceptual design that includes mixed use residential and commercial space, a new town hall and significant pedestrian amenities — including a path link to Beacon Avenue. That concept is still on the books at town hall today.

Finlayson said during the years following the plan’s creation, three of the buildings were purchased by one group — buildings that are currently home to the Star Cinema, Good Fortune Chinese Restaurant and the nearby laundromat.

Another area is owned by the Town of Sidney and is being used as a parking lot. Finlayson noted that the Marker Group picked up a neighbouring site for their five-storey Meridian Residences, but said they were willing to provide space to allow for the Beacon Avenue access point.

“The whole thing was a dream,” he continued. “If it was able to go, it could have solved a lot of problems in Sidney right now, specifically the parking problem.”

His proposal included approximately 200 new residential units and underground parking. It also would have offered space for a new municipal hall and movie theatre.

Finlayson added this plan was drawn up by his architecture firm and was being explored — no plans were ever shared with the municipality itself.

Now that the idea has stalled, Finlayson said he’s not aware of any fallback plans by the property owners to develop.