Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sale of land by BC near the Legislature

Most of this block other than the Queen's Printer on the far right is the 5.8 acre block that is for sale
The Kingston Street site
The province is selling two parcels of land near the Legislature.   One is a 5.8 acre parcel directly south of the Legislature and the other is a 0.4 acre parcel on Kingston next to a large parking lot. I have long thought that this site was underused and had a lot of potential for redevelopment for more office space.  I wish the sale also included the parking lot on the west side of Menzies between Kingston and Michigan.

No price has been set but the goal is to have it sold this fiscal year.  If I were to guess, I think the province will end up selling the property for around $20,000,000 to $25,000,000.

At the moment the 5.6 acre parcel has 148,000 square feet of government offices in buildings that were built as a short term solution more than 60 years ago.   Friends that work in these buildings do not have much positive to say about them.   Not only are the buildings tatty and run down, the very street, Superior, is rough and feels neglected.   The current use of the site makes itself a barrier between James Bay and Downtown.

As a location it has cried out for redevelopment for many years.   In the 1994 it was a core part of what was called the Victoria Accord, an agreement between the province and the City for future redevelopment of the legislative precinct.
View of the site from the corner of Menzies and Superior

View of the current buildings from Michigan Street
The Victoria accord called for an increase of 234,000 square feet of more office space, 162,000 square feet of residential and 13,000 square feet of retail.   The total envisaged building space was to be 409,000 square feet of building on the site.

The province has committed to leasing 180,000 square feet of office space on the site.  This means the site could have 54,000 square feet of other offices.

The Victoria accord called for retail along Menzies.   I think this would be an important increase and extension or the James Bay retail core.   It would build a human and walk-able continuation which should improve James Bay overall

The plan was for residential along Michigan.   The residential was planned for three to four stories tall and I suspect this will be the biggest complaint because of how much it will change the look and feel of Michigan Street.   The residential part of the development would add about 200 to 225 people to the James Bay population.

An important part of the Victoria accord was that the development of the site would not block views of the legislature.  This means any plan would have place the new buildings in such a way to ensure that there are sitelines from James Bay of the Legislature.   By having to do this, it means that even though the site will have more than twice as much building on the site, the development should be more inviting for people to walk through.   At the moment the placement of the buildings does not allow for easy walking through the site.

The current buildings closer up
An article in the TC says the five heritage houses on the main site would be moved to the smaller property on Kingston.  This would be an interesting move.   At the moment the five heritage houses are not anywhere close to their potential because of how the site is laid out.  They feel like isolated remnants at the moment.
Current home of the Royal Canadian Legion
A danger in moving them is that they will feel odd or false in their new location.  They may not feel "authentic" but is that worse than how they are treated now?

Two of the heritage houses mid street on Superior

The two heritage houses on Michigan close to Menzies
I hope the sale happens quickly and plans for site redevelopment come forward soon.    This is a chance to enhance James Bay and the Legislative precinct for the first time in decades.   I would like to see something really amazing on the site.

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