Last Building On The Block

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Parkside isn’t the first fractional ownership project, better known as a timeshare, in Victoria, but the $60-million building designed by West Vancouver resort and hotel architect Rick Hulbert is the most imposing.

It was built over three years by the Pearson family, who have been active in Victoria since the 1950s. This newest project opened quietly last August. It’s also quite the mixed-use project, including office space on the Blanshard Street end of the building that is leased to Dr. Ken Smith’s new Clinic 805 and a 3,500-square-foot space waiting for an operator of a restaurant and lounge. A few small offices are also still for lease. 

“It’s really a condo hotel,” says James Pearson, whose family also owns Aviawest, which manages Parkside and other timeshare properties at Parksville, Ucluelet, Vancouver, and Sun Peaks near Kamloops. It also runs the 17-suite Rosewood Inn bed and breakfast, formerly Holland House Inn, at Government and Michigan in James Bay.

They’re all in the RCI network where timeshare owners can swap their places for other timeshares around the world, like the 92-suite Worldmark Trendwest Victoria on Kingston Street that opened in 2003.

Besides adding a major new hotel to the Victoria visitor scene, Parkside is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the redevelopment over most of the last decade on the block where Victoria General Hospital used to sit.

Parkside sells units as small as a one-eighth share ($79,000), although many people have bought full shares at $500,000-plus, according to Pearson. 

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“We’re happy with our occupancy here for just opening,” says Andrew Pearson. The hotel had a soft opening August 1 and for the Thanksgiving weekend, the place was full. He expects a grand opening sometime in the spring. Over the winter, Parkside was offering suites for $159.

All 126 units in the building are suites with kitchens, the smallest at 540 square feet and the larger two-bedroom units are about 750 square feet. The complete project is 180,000 square feet. Because of the slope of the property downhill from Fairfield Road, on that side, the building has eight floors, while on the Humboldt side, 10 floors rise up. The eighth floor is the city club lounge for owners and guests at the hotel, and Parkside plans to sell 100 separate memberships as well. There’s an outdoor rooftop plaza on the sixth floor, while downstairs, there’s a 29-seat theatre, something like a private screening room with comfortable armchairs, and a 25-metre lap pool.

The lobby space with indoor-outdoor water feature is quiet for now. Some of the old Crystal Garden tropical plants have been installed, and the pools had to be redesigned to incorporate all the plants, which should slowly fill up the three-floor atrium that connects the two towers of timeshares. Another green feature: Pearson says they’ll apply for LEED platinum status early this year.
First new building in decades at RRU.

They moved the road over, rearranged the parking, and now the $22-million Learning and Innovation Centre is rising on the hillside at Royal Roads University. It’s the first new building in decades at RRU, which has had to make do with what was left behind when Ottawa closed the military college in 1995.

“It’s the first purpose-built facility for Royal Roads University,” says president Allan Cahoon, who describes the LIC as a “signature entry” building for the university.

The LIC is meant to be a gateway and, according to RRU’s InRoads alumni newsletter, its “strong central towers, concrete-faced masonry, and punched windows” will echo the century-old Hatley Castle and the 1940 Grant building.

It’s intended to make a statement about RoyalRoads’ philosophy as well. “We’re using it as a catalyst to walk the talk around sustainability,” says Cahoon. The LIC will use rainwater for flushing toilets and fits the modern campus plan that encourages people to walk.

It isn’t just an addition to existing campus buildings but is a freestanding structure a short distance uphill from the Grant building. Architects Jensen Chernoff Thompson have designed a glass “skywalk” connecting the ground floor to Grant’s top level, a pedestrian bridge which will be built when additional funding is available.

The B.C. government provided an initial $15 million for the LIC and the university is raising the rest. Royal Roads is more than a third of the way through a $100-million capital campaign.

In place of the twin parking lots that flanked the steep entrance road, cars will now have several smaller level areas with landscaping to suggest the look and feel of “parking within a park,” according to InRoads.

The road was moved over to the edge of the forest and is meant to keep the character of a “country estate lane,” from the time when James Dunsmuir assembled his 800-acre Hatley estate above Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood.

The LIC will be almost 31,000 square feet on three floors, with a phase two built at a later date adding 50 per cent more space.
Cahoon says the building will aim to be cutting edge for the university’s mid-career learners. “We’re trying to integrate the latest learner technology platforms,” he says. It is to be a “learning commons.”

It incorporates a central atrium to let lots of natural light into the larger-than-usual classrooms and “syndicate” or breakout rooms for small groups. The LIC will be big enough to incorporate nine of the university’s normal student intakes, each one a 50-person “cohort.”

The building height has been held to three floors (although there’s a fourth level on the downhill side beside Grant), meaning most of the roofline will not be visible from the top of RRU’s landmark Hatley Castle down the hill. Even from the beach at the lagoon, the castle will still be the prominent landmark.

Another positive: the LIC will mask the service area at the back of the Grant building, the truck loading bays, dumpsters, and trash cans.

The new building, to be constructed to LEED gold standard, is expected to be finished late this year with the first learners using the building early in 2011.