For years, Fernwood residents have been curious about the development of half a block of land on Chambers Street between North Park and Grant

›› Lauren Gaultier

Originally dubbed as the Fernwood Urban Village development, in 2011 this ­project requested rezoning to develop three ­dwellings primarily for use as co-housing units. This proposal envisioned 31 strata units where cooperative ­owners would share amenities ranging from ­cooking facilities, guest accommodation, and ­garden space. According to BC Land Titles, ­Humboldt Investments purchased 1147 North Park Street in March of 2010. ­Originally ­purchased as a revenue property, the ­intriguing prospect of co-housing arose after speaking more with community ­members. From there, in November 2014, ­Humboldt Investments purchased the ­additional ­properties at 1147 North Park, 1159 North Park, and 1802 Chambers Street. Leading up to the ­rezoning ­meeting in July 2014, City Council received ­primarily positive support ­including letters remarking that ­Fernwood would be a great place to host such an ­innovative, ­cohesive, and community-minded ­co-housing ­village. As a result, the rezoning ­application was passed and turned into R-75 allowing for a maximum of four multiple ­dwelling ­buildings that were no more than four stories high, not exceeding 14 metres in height.

Fast forward to 2017, the co-housing community dream was quashed by legal and financial issues and in February, the four properties were purchased by a new developer, Lu & Pan Holdings, for an ­estimated $3,100,000. This new developer has teamed up with architect, and former Victoria Mayor, Alan Lowe to reimagine the property now conceptually labelled Fernwood Commons.
This proposal was unlike the one from Humboldt, as it took on a more ­traditional development style—losing the co-housing plan. The initial review of this new ­development proposal was in March 2017. The design was brought forward to the ­Fernwood Community Association and residents shared concerns primarily about the scale of the four-story apartment ­dwelling and that it did not align with the Official Community Plan (OCP). Lowe and team went back to the drawing board and ­proposed a new design that consisted of the same number of units as the co-housing project: 31. This was comprised of a duplex on Grant street (2 units), six rental units in the converted Teacherage house, and 23 units in a, now three story, multi-family apartment style building that were offered up as rental-only for 10 years.

Over the past two and a half years, there have been several discussions with the ­community and city council leading to multiple revisions to rezoning ­application and general project design. The community watched as the lot sat vacant and saw graffiti and squatting going on in the abandoned buildings. Many must have wondered, when will something happen to this lot?
Thankfully Lowe, no stranger to embracing community opinion, has always been vocal about the progress of the site and ­encouraged demolition of the existing houses and remediation of the Teacherage building to put some fears to rest.

In May of this year, he hosted another land committee use session through the Fernwood Community Association which was a well-attended, bustling event. Individuals who were present witnessed the unveiling of yet another completely new proposal. The newest proposal, relabelled Fernwood Village, consists of seven three-level duplexes and would keep the proposed six units in the Teacherage for a total of 20 units. The duplexes will consist of two bedrooms with one laneway-style garage parking space accessible from North Park.

Although the most recent proposal did not include the same 10-year rental ­structure, Lowe pointed out that the units would be more affordable alternatives for families ­trying to buy in Fernwood, as an option that bridges the condo and single detached family dwelling. General ­consensus from the crowd was that this new design is more appreciated over the others primarily because it aligns more closely with the ­direction of our OCP to provide more density without having boxy apartment buildings.

Overall, the number of people housed would be virtually the same in all scenarios that have been proposed to date. In order for the latest proposal to be accepted, there are some zoning requirements that will need to be approved by council and which could be presented as early as September.

If you wish to learn more about this development, you can sign up for Land Use Committee updates through ­fernwoodlanduse@gmail.com.

If you are curious about how this ­development will line up with the Capital Region Housing Corporation’s (CRHC) proposed 150+ unit Caledonia ­development, spanning between ­Gladstone and Grant, you aren’t alone. You can voice any support or concerns to our Neighbourhood ­Councillor: Sharmarke Dubow, at sdubow@victoria.­ca or our ­Neighbourhood Staff Contact: Michael Hill, at ­mhill@­­victoria.ca.