Race is on to build downtown Victoria’s next office building

A model represents a potential massing of an office building, centre, on the Roth Site, as envisioned by previous Roth Site owner Townline. Photo © by Robert Randall.

The purchase of the Roth Site in the 700-block of Pandora by Jawl Properties and it’s appetite to build an office building on the lot, together with the news that developers of the 15-storey Gateway Green office proposal are fielding calls from the provincial government, hint at yet another race in the making to build downtown Victoria’s next major office building.

Travis Lee of Tri-Eagle Development says the company’s Gateway Green tower has an advantage over every other office proposal in town: the project is only “60 days” away from a construction start the moment a key tenant is signed.

However, Jawl may have acquired a serious contender to Tri-Eagle’s impressive 60-day tenant-to-shovels offering considering the Roth Site is already zoned for highrise office use and a hasty municipal process would yield a greatly reduced planning-to-shovels period.

The bidding war in the making between Tri-Eagle and Jawl Properties is similar to one that played out several years ago.  The duel played out like so: as Tri-Eagle was courting BC Ferries with its offerings at Fisgard and Blanshard in the Gateway Green tower, Jawl Properties, coincidentally BC Ferries’ landlord at the time, purchased the BC Telephone Company property at Johnson and Blanshard streets with plans to build a first-class office building and, according to industry insiders, made BC Ferries an offer that the company could not refuse.  Ultimately BC Ferries walked from Gateway Green, the BC Telephone Company property became the Atrium building and Tri-Eagle put it’s tower on-hold.

This time around no one major tenant has yet revealed itself, other than loose interest expressed by the “provincial government,” and Jawl has some legwork to do before it is ready to present its plans to City staff, let alone potential tenants.

“We have designers looking at massing possibilities for the site and it is too early to say whether the project will be all office or maybe a mix of uses,” said Jawl Properties representative Robert Jawl, stopping short of making a preference for a slimmer, taller point tower design or a shorter, wider building.  Jawl did confirm that D’ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism, the team behind the Atrium building and several of Jawl’s newer residential buildings, is on the roster once again.

The zoning currently allows for almost 200,000 square feet of space and heights in excess of the typical 12-storey office building height.  The previous proposal on the site was for two residential buildings, one of which was to stand some 54 meter talls over 19-storeys.

Asked if any tenants had their sites on Jawl Properties’ upcoming project, Robert Jawl said the company has a solid grasp of public and private office space demands in the region and as of yet no one formal potential tenant has expressed definitive interest in the project. VV

To stay up to date on and to discuss office proposals throughout greater Victoria, view the Office space and office development thread on VibrantVictoria’s forum.  To stay up to date on Gateway Green click here and follow the discussion of the Roth Site development by Jawl Properties here.

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