Telus Ocean is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to downtown Victoria, and permanently change the Inner Harbour. Not everyone is thrilled.
Victoria will have a new landmark when the TELUS Ocean centre opens its doors at Douglas and Humboldt streets in 2024. Once completed, it’s projected to bring white-collar jobs to downtown Victoria at a time when the city has seen employees migrate to Saanich and points west like Langford and Esquimalt.
Victoria City Councillor Dave Thompson favours the project as part of a process to reinvigorate Douglas Street and downtown as a whole.
“I’m happy to see any kind of activity and revitalization, and new assets going downtown,” says Thompson. “I think the street itself is going to get quite a refresh. It’s going to be a lot more esthetically compelling than it has been.”
Designed by Victoria’s own Aryze Developments, the 158,000-square-foot TELUS Ocean is projected to generate 450 new jobs, with 250 Telus employees occupying much of the office space, and the rest leased to other companies. After approval by the previous municipal government, then-mayor Lisa Helps lauded the development as a positive step in growing the technology and services sectors of Victoria’s economy.
“It shows that there is still value in locating downtown,” says Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. “It’s something that will be, I think, an attraction for businesses because it’s going to be such a modern and innovative building.”
While the arrival of nearly 500 employees will only add to Victoria’s growth as a technology and services hub, some residents are upset about how the building will permanently change the look of historic downtown Victoria.
As a soaring, 11-storey glass structure behind the Fairmont Empress, TELUS Ocean will be a departure from the historic ambience of the Inner Harbour. It’s purposely designed as “statement architecture,” in a neighbourhood where smaller, traditional architecture is the rule.
Ian Sutherland, who serves on the board of the Victoria Downtown Residents Association, says the biggest concern he has heard from residents is about the projected size of TELUS Ocean, which he says is massive and approaches a density comparable to Hong Kong.
“It sticks up, [it’s] plainly visible from the harbour … it towers above the Fairmont Empress and there’s a whole bunch of impacts that were concerning to local residents,” says Sutherland.
Even if TELUS Ocean may not fit it with its neighbours the Fairmont Empress or the Union Club, Williams says the glass-faced building will literally mirror downtown’s historic architecture.
“I think it actually reflects it,” says Williams. “Because the reflection of the older buildings in the glass facade of this building provides another perspective.”
Thompson believes city council should not be heavily invested in the traditional esthetics of the city, and says some variety in downtown’s architecture will be a positive.
“You don’t want to see a monotonous downtown where everything looks the same,” says Thompson. “I know that there’s going to be a wide range of opinions on that.”
Williams says TELUS Ocean can only enhance Victoria when it opens in 2024.
“It’s going to transform the neighbourhood. It’s going to be a landmark. It’s going to be an attraction in itself.”