RBCM expansion plans up for further discussion

Victoria city council is considering a rezoning application by the Royal B.C. Museum to accommodate future expansion. The buildings in white represent the type of addition the museum may one day propose

Victoria city council is considering a rezoning application by the Royal B.C. Museum to accommodate future expansion. The buildings in white represent the type of addition the museum may one day propose

The City of Victoria is firmly behind the Royal B.C. Museum’s expansion plans, but a proposed commercial office space on site is raising questions.Last week, city council discussed a rezoning application to support new gallery space and a collections tower. To generate income in the short term, the museum proposes to lease up to 450,000 square feet in its proposed 16-storey tower. As the museum’s collection grows, it plans to gradually displace its office tenants until it occupies the entire building.“That might or might not happen,” said Coun. Pam Madoff. If the museum’s collection doesn’t expand as planned, the tower could remain an office in perpetuity, confirmed senior planner Kevin King. “Staff decided to steer away from the idea of a covenant that would phase out the office in the long term,” he said.The possibility didn’t concern Coun. Geoff Young. Office space is not an undesirable addition to the downtown, he said.On the whole, councillors approved of the application, which could potentially double the floor space of the museum.Its proposed 300-stall, underground parking lot is not as big as generally required, but bike parking and change rooms are included to compensate.“If this wasn’t the Royal B.C. Museum, if this wasn’t our most important cultural asset, I certainly wouldn’t be even considering the kind of density that we’re looking at on this site,” Madoff said.Through letters to council, the Victoria tourism industry voiced firm support for the expansion.A public hearing on the matter will be held, but no date has been set.rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?The rezoning application entails moving St. Anne’s schoolhouse to Thunderbird Park, where Helmcken House and Mungo Martin House are located.