VICTORIA -- The proposed redevelopment of commercial property on the edge of Victoria’s iconic Chinatown may loosen a tight rental market by adding 274 purpose-built rental suites to the city’s stock.

The developer of the 1.5-acre site located at the corner of Government and Herald streets says the project will bring new life to the area and help ease the city’s low vacancy rate.

“Victoria has a high percentage of people who rent, yet the market has a serious shortage of purpose-built rental housing,” said Denciti Development Corp. CEO Garry Fawley. “This project will add much needed rental housing supply to the city.”

The proposed project will see the redevelopment of commercial buildings located on Herald and Chatham streets, as well as surface parking lots. Plans also call for the redevelopment of an automotive repair shop at the corner of Government and Herald Streets.

“As we fill in Government and go down Herald, you start to create a really dynamic street,” said Fawley. “As the city moves north towards ‘Old Town,’ it is an ideal place to start adding the right building in the right mix.”

The rental units will range from two-bedroom to studio-sized suites. Tenants in the proposed five-story building will have access to a number of amenities, including a gym, media room and a central outdoor courtyard.

“The project is focused on the young folks downtown, so they have a place to live and work close to where they are doing business,” said Fawley. “It really addresses the needs of Victoria and it does it in such a positive way.”

Though the redevelopment of the property is still in the proposal stage of the project, Victoria’s mayor says it is a sign of continued confidence in the future of the city’s downtown.

“I’m thrilled to see this much-needed, high-quality housing proposed for downtown Victoria on the edge of the future Arts and Innovation district,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

The planned project will also include 18 ground-floor retail spaces.

“The retail needs the increased residential and the residential, especially in the small-unit world, needs the retail,” said Fawley. “They feed off each other and create a rich urban environment.”

Fawley says the mix of businesses that make up the development’s retail spaces should be useful to the residents of the surrounding area. He says there will be restaurants, coffee shops and he hopes there will also be a small, urban grocery store.

“We are going to study it hard to find what the final mix (of retailers) will be,” said Fawley. “We want it to be an extension of the common area for our residents.”

The development permit application was submitted to the City of Victoria on Sept. 25. Fawley says construction on the project is expected to begin in late 2021.