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Major redevelopment pitched for Victoria's waterfront around the Capital Iron building

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Some could call the seven acres of land around the Capital Iron building under-utilized waterfront and a bit of a dead zone.

“It’s seven acres of primarily parking,” said Jon Stovell, Reliance Properties chief executive.

Reliance Properties owns the land spanning from the waterfront, through the Capital Iron building and up to Government Street, and is looking to redevelop it.

“It’s interesting, it’s part of the city’s vision called the Arts and Innovation District,” said Stovell.

The estimated $600-million project is ambitious, combining different building uses together to create a dynamic district.

“Fishing, infrastructure, arts and culture, a new art gallery, residential, rental, arts, live-work,” said Stovell.

A rendering of the proposed redevelopment from Reliance PropertiesThe Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has more than 23,000 art objects in its collection and has long outgrown its current location in Victoria’s Rockland neighbourhood.

“Contemporary art has changed a lot,” said Nancy Noble, director and CEO of the Greater Victoria Art Gallery. “It is no longer a small painting on a wall.”

The gallery says it will be making the move downtown if the project goes ahead and has signed a letter of understanding with the developer, Reliance Properties.

“The big thing is that we get to purpose build a gallery where we can showcase our collection,” said Noble.

“We’re going to be able to give the art gallery, with the cooperation of the city, a piece of land and then they are going to use their own resources to build their own gallery,” said Stovell.

That new gallery is being imagined as five to six floors of space, far more than its current location.

“(The district is) going to be a place where marine activities happen,” said Bob Fraumeni, owner of Finest at Sea.

Finest at Sea’s current operation is based in Victoria’s James Bay. It runs nearly a dozen commercial fishing vessels, a processing plant as well as a fish shop and eatery.

The operation wants to relocate to the waterfront behind the Capital Iron building.

“Hopefully a considerable amount of seafood gets brought across the docks, from sea to table as I say,” said Fraumeni.

The heritage buildings on the property won’t change much with, their current tenants remaining in place.

Under its current configuration, the seven acres of land house about 93,000 square feet of structures, employing roughly 70 people.

If the project is built out, there will be almost 900,000 square feet of structures, employing up to 1,800 people, according to Reliance Properties. It will also include 500 residential units.

“There will be good vibrancy,” said Stovell.

Reliance Properties will be submitting its master plan to Victoria council on April 18. If all goes well, the next step will be a public hearing.

If the project gets the go ahead, shovels could hit the ground within the next two years.

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