It's Alive! Victoria's Growing Urban Core

Victoria has for decades been slowly growing both regionally and within the city proper. Yet with all that slow organic growth the size of the downtown has remained remarkably unchanged. This year marks the beginning of both a northward and eastward push to extend the downtown that will forever change the feel and perception of the city.

At the north end of downtown, the long empty hole left by the failed Radius project is finally being partially filled in. At that site, Townline, which developed the former Hudson Bay department store into a condo building and public market, has begun work on the Hudson Walk. Across town to the east, the recently cleared lot at Pandora and Cook streets sits ready for the building of a 13 storey rental building. The 1075 Pandora project by CGS Property Group, sits at the north eastern corner of Harris Green, next to the Mondrian project completed last year. These two projects will be the largest buildings on the fringe of downtown built in years and together, they will change the sense that people have of downtown going forward.

Hudson Walk


A view through the carriageway at
the Hudson Walk site
The Hudson Walk is the latest Townline building in the large Hudson development project. The Hudson project came flying out of the gate with grand plans to build three large buildings behind the Hudson building on Douglas. The enthusiasm for the area was echoed with a plan for two significant office projects on the corners of Blanshard and Fisgard and Blanshard and Caledonia. In 2008, the economic collapse had its ripple effect on Victoria. All of these projects went on hiatus or were cancelled. As things began to turn around, Townline again started work, though more cautiously. In 2014, the Hudson Mews building was completed and excavation started on the Hudson Walk building.

The Hudson Walk will stretch the current carriageway from Fisgard Street all the way to Caledonia Avenue. When finished, the building will have a four storey section that abuts Herald and a sixteen storey tower along Caledonia.

It is immediately apparent that the completion of the Hudson Walk will have a dramatic and positive impact on the pedestrian environment in that area. There will be a flood of new residents to visit the new public market and other businesses that are cropping up. Perhaps the more tantalizing promise of the project is how it is pushing the boundary of downtown Victoria to the north into an area currently home to a large amount of underused land.

Extending the urban environment to the north will create a new place for all of us to interact with the city, a home for some and a destination for everyone else.

1075 Pandora

At the north eastern corner of the defined border of downtown, sits the 1075 Pandora project by CGS Property Group. The site was home to a two storey concrete building for decades and along with much of this area was car-oriented and not much to look at. 


1075 Pandora site. Right next to the Mondrian building
CGS Property Group hopes to significantly change this area with its plans for 1075 Pandora which include a 13 storey portion at the corner and a smaller 10 storey corner across the block, facing Johnson Street. The 1075 will continue the densification of the area already started with the completion of the Mondrian project in 2013. 

VibrantVictoria.ca has a good look at the project here.

I have great hopes for the impact of this building as I think that this area is meant to have both higher density and a more urban form. As Cook Street heads north through North Park Village many of the buildings there are built to the sidewalk and feel urban. To continue that feeling to the south will hopefully spur other developers to do the same.
North Park Village with its older urban form
 


Harris Green, the park that runs along Pandora is perhaps one of the least used green spaces in the city. Adding high density living in the area creates a need for outdoor spaces and hopefully it will mean that on a sunny day the park can be full of people on a picnic or playing frisbee. 
Harris Green


I am a huge fan of the North Park neighbourhood and a project like this, while across the border from it should only have a positive impact giving those great businesses there more customers and building on the already lively street scene, especially at the corner of North Park and Cook on a summer afternoon.

With both the Hudson Walk and 1075 Pandora projects getting underway, downtown Victoria will be a new place in a year, with new places to shop, live and explore. 

What other projects either recently completed or getting underway, are going to change the way we perceive and live in the city?

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