The longtime home of the Capitol 6 Theatre in Victoria will be redeveloped into commercial and office space but plans also leave the door open for other public uses.
Council in early October gave the final go-ahead to Jawl Properties’ 10-storey project – called Capitol VI in an ode to the theatre’s history. The new building has a three-storey podium base that will sit along Blanshard Street between Yates and View streets, before the upper floors are set back.
The inside of the podium will be built so it can possibly be used as a new downtown library, a YMCA-like facility, post-secondary school space or other uses, but those details will be finalized closer to construction. The five commercial units look to house a number of cafes and restaurants, along with a retail store.
Architects for the project say the modern redevelopment will transform what they called a blank and unengaged Blanshard Street facade. They added it will be tiered to be a transition between the smaller businesses to the south and the highrises to the north and east. It’s also been designed to preserve sightlines to the St. Andrew’s Cathedral spire, located across the street.
With the current building being a longtime landmark, the plans include a public plaza at Yates and Blanshard with a standout V-shaped column that would sit atop a rocky outcrop structure, which aims to reflect the region’s terrain.
Jawl promises a number of pedestrian improvements along Blanshard to encourage pedestrian activity in the lively location. Trees will be a buffer between the sidewalk and street to cut down on traffic noise, outdoor seating will be added and other green additions will look to improve stormwater filtration and reduce urban heat island effects.
Rich landscaping on the podium rooftop will also have trees serving as a privacy barrier with the adjacent Yellow On Yates residential tower to the east.
A few residents spoke out against the project during a public hearing that preceded its approval. They worried more office space wouldn’t be a logical or financially sound use for the site given the rise in hybrid and remote work and the amount of scarcely-filled workplaces already in the city. Concerns also focused on losing such a central cultural space.
Jawl responded by saying it has rented the theatre space at a heavily subsidized rate after buying the property in 2015 because the developer wanted movie-goers to keep using the space while future plans were developed. That came after the previous owner found continuing the theater was no longer viable at the location, Jawl said.
The developer, which leases out a number of Victoria office buildings, said it’s seen workplace demand exceed pre-pandemic levels in the past year and employers want top-class, central buildings with amenities to entice workers.
Councillors said the design did a lot to accommodate neighbouring apartments, that the 10-storey proposal showed restraint compared to the site’s allowable height and noted the need for a mix of uses in downtown buildings.
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