Q&A January 2012

Here are the most recent frequently asked questions and answers from the latest update from the Redevelopment Taskforce

What is the goal of the development?

To allow the land to support and amplify the mission of St. John the Divine

What values are guiding the work?

In April 2009 the Parish met and gave us a mandate to begin and said we were to be guided by the following values: community, equity and social justice, environment, architecture which creates a sense of spirit and sanctuary and self, beauty and harmony.

Why does it take the time it takes?

We are in the business of building community and it takes time to consult and reflect and adjust. The absence of funds from the Church means extra creativity and new kinds of partnerships are needed. This is a wonderful opportunity but we are breaking new ground and that too takes time.

What is the next step?

The Congregation will be asked to approve the Master Development Plan in March or April 2012.

What role does the City play?

If the Parish approves the MDP we will submit it to the City for approval. Some rezoning will be required. This means we will need to engage with the neighbourhood in consultations, which we would want to do anyway. The rezoning and approvals process is anticipated to take the remainder of 2012. Assuming all goes well, we could begin building early in 2013.

Do you know if you will get the rezoning?

Preliminary indications are favourable. However, it is much too early to say.

How did you decide on the kind of housing to build?

Based on the best advice we could find to meet the greatest need.

How did you decide that the project should be phased?

This is a risk management strategy. If one builds all at once and the market or world conditions change, one can get caught meeting no need. If one plans to build in phases this can be better managed. It is also a way of proceeding without financial contribution from the parish while still maintaining a high level of control over the development. The plan is to use revenue from each phase to finance the next.

How did you decide to recommend that the first phase include commercial space?

Our research indicates a steady state of high demand for commercial space for not-for-profits, which is latent and large and unlikely to be filled in the commercial markets soon. This becomes a risk management decision. It also meets the goal of being responsive to the community’s needs rather than making decisions completely autonomously.

Have you looked at other development models?

Yes. We have had the benefit of two very senior and experienced development consultants throughout the period – one with extensive knowledge of Victoria and the other with extensive knowledge of Vancouver and surrounds.

Housing is often best built with partners so the church does not become responsible for filling and monitoring the space. What are you planning in this regard?

The major providers of social housing in Victoria are aware of our project. It would not be our recommendation that the church become a landlord or building manager so this will be front and centre of any proposal we bring forward.

What level of “green building” is being considered?

It is part of our vision to show leadership. Various options are under discussion.

Will there be children on the site?

That is the plan. One of the options under serious consideration is to have a day care center. The owners of the center would like two kinds of spaces – secure, and integrated with the site. The secure space may be on the roof. The part of the site that is open to site occupants and visitors will also have spaces that are overtly welcoming to children and their caregivers, such as a play space.

Parking is an issue for an aging parish. Does the Court need parking spaces?

Yes. In order for the redevelopment to be economical we hope to locate many more parking spaces off site – on the streets, and excess capacity found in other locations close by. We would provide excellent drop off and pick up facilities at the site itself. We hope the Parish will begin to see transport to church as a way to take care of each other and the earth in various ways such as significantly increased carpooling, transit etc. We will be working with BC Transit to attempt to meet increased needs for its services.  The existing residents currently have only 7 cars.

What is the thinking about parking?

The City does not require parking for non-profits. We are having a parking study done to assess our needs and those of other site users. There is a direct trade off between onsite parking and financial sustainability, as each parking stall will cost $12K for above ground and $30 K for below ground. As in all things with this development we will have to be creative while remaining committed to meeting real need. We are considering asking the city for angle parking on Mason St., for example.

What are the limits regarding height?

The City of Victoria Official Community Plan designates this area as residential and we are therefore not considering high- rise. The buildings will be a maximum of 3-4 stories. The spire must remain visible as a view landmark. The Church building itself must dominate the site.

How will the development meet future church financial needs?

The Task Force does not believe that the development should be seen as a way of propping up an aging Parish. Rather it is seen as a way of allowing the land to support and amplify our mission of providing service in Christ’s name. The land will not be sold. There will be revenue eventually to the church, which is appropriate to ensure we provide more services but the plan is to use short-term return to finance each new phase of the development.

Are we considering conservation and retrofitting first? It is often cheaper.

Yes. We are hoping, for example, that the Parish House can be renovated and upgraded significantly, thus preserving the beautiful but making the inefficient efficient in terms of heat light and water. However final decisions have not been made. These kinds of decisions will be made taking into account the business case as well as the history and future uses.

What is the plan for the Court?

Our commitment is to take care of its residents. How that happens will depend on many factors including market conditions at the time we consider the options for that building. At present options include: leaving it intact with a retrofit, leaving the shell standing with major renovations to create more units, or tearing it down. It is too early to determine the final outcome.

What is the plan for the Hall?

We are trying to break the project into manageable pieces.  We will build on the open parts of the site first.  The hall and court will be in the master development plan.  We are discussing the need for a hall with First Met. We are not sure each church will need one.  We know the new Arena generates excess heat from its cooling system – could this be used?

Where does the Diocese fit in?

The Diocese owns the land. They have indicated support for the project in any form that supports our values and mission, providing there is no sale of the land itself. We are considering options such as 99-year leases, co-ownership or full ownership remaining with SJD.

What is the Master Development Plan?

This is the plan that will be presented to the City to explain our ideas for the entire project. It will be built over time and elements may therefore change in response to market and other conditions at the time of each phase but it is important to have our best concept in place before we begin.

Does the MDP include Gazzola Tiles or the Guide House?

We will make sure that our MDP has the capacity to seamlessly integrate either of these properties should they become available within our means or through potential partnership. As a result of Parish input we are working harder to explore these opportunities.

Who will live on the site once it is redeveloped?

The group of people with the greatest need in Victoria now are 45-65 years old single women who have worked at low wages their whole lives and who do not have children or whose children have left home. There is also a need for affordable homes for single parents. Assuming this has not changed by the time we build these are the groups we would be aiming to serve.

Will housing be offered to parishioners?

If they fit the profiles above, yes. There has been some discussion about providing market housing for parishioners who may wish to retire in the downtown core. The reality is that there is a lot of housing for this market already, much of which remains undersold. It would be a very risky proposition for us and one that would have to be carefully evaluated closer to the time. Experience in other projects is that while this wish is expressed when it comes time to make monetary decisions these buyers are very selective especially about neighbourhood. The Task Force deeply appreciates the ethic of service contained in these discussions and we will be looking at it more closely.

What thought is being given to clean or low green house gas emission energy?

This is a priority. We are considering geo thermal especially if First Met is advancing their development plans and would be open to partnering us. We are also considering distributed energy potentially from the Save-On-Foods Arena, which has excess energy from its ice rink. Solar is a partial solution as well. It is our intention that the development be at least zero net emissions and hopefully much higher than that.

Will attention be given to the arts?

We are in discussion with arts groups and are excited about the possibility of including them as central to the development. There is also significant opportunity for display space for liturgical arts and we thank parishioners for raising this concern. The original values given by the Parish to guide us include “beauty” and we remain faithful to those guidelines.

How much housing and why that number?

The Task Force believes the Parish wishes to be responsive to the needs of the community. There is less of a need for homeless or assisted housing than in the past. There is a need for other groups to have affordable housing. (See earlier discussion). There is a strong and pressing need for office space for not-for-profit agencies that provide vital services to our community. The MDP will include between 30 and 50 units of housing. There is a balance between meeting community needs for housing and community needs for space for organizations serving and enriching the community. We seek to strike a balance while ensuring stability for the Church’s finances.

Will there be a quiet green space as well as a place to sit and have coffee and enjoy the site?

Yes. The site is small but if well planned can meet many uses. We are working with talented architects and landscape architects.

Could we have a garden or green space out front to make sure the space feels welcoming?

Designs have not been finalized but the inner garden is a priority. Care will be taken with streetscapes to make sure they are welcoming in. The space is too small to provide much more green space after we preserve the inner garden and create a lovely walk way from First Met through the site to Mason Street. We are working with an architect who believes that paying attention to the spaces between buildings is a top priority.

Will attention be paid to excellent bike parking?


Would things be easier or significantly different if the Parish was willing or able to contribute finances as well as land?

It’s an interesting but purely hypothetical question in our minds. We have seen this as a way to drive our intention that we serve the needs of the community, which requires partnerships. Other churches which have had money and land have got into trouble because they went it alone and did not have alliances with housing providers, for example.

Is First Met part of this?

First Met is exploring ways to alter its site usage. Our processes are parallel but we are each keeping the other in the loop and intend our architects co-operate closely. Our decisions about the second or third phases will definitely need to take their decisions into account. For example if they retain Fellowship Hall we may not need as much hall space as we now have.

Will not-for- profits be able to subsidize church operations?

No. This will likely be prevented by their Boards and in our view appropriately so. This means clear conversations about roles and revenue. Naturally if they buy an interest, those funds are ours. If they pay rent, those funds are ours as long as it is perceived as a reasonable market rent or below market rent for the NGOs.

We have seen one architectural rendering. Will there be others?

More detail will be provided on the concepts underlying the MDP with visuals. However the Task Force recommends against spending scarce resources on developing alternative site plans. Each one costs in the neighbourhood of $30K.

How will the Parish participate in decision making?

The Task Force will present the MDP to the Parish for a formal vote. We hope this will happen in March or April 2012.

Can Parishioners make suggestions?

Absolutely. Just talk to any Task Force member, or call the office and they will connect us or put something up on the website www.divinedevelopment.org or send us an email.

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