Steaming Ahead

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) on Friday, May 4, opened up the CPR Steamship Terminal building on the Inner Harbour for a look at the past, present, and future of the site.

GVHA CEO Curtis Grad led media on a tour of the historic building, which is owned by the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) and had long been the home of the Royal London Wax Museum. That attraction shut down in 2010; the building has since been closed for seismic upgrades and other renovations.

The building once was a grand “international gateway for Victoria,” says Grad, and the GVHA, which won tenancy rights to the building earlier this year in a bidding process, aspires to return it to its rightful place as a jewel of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It is seeking sub-tenants for three floors of the building in the short term, but in the coming years would like to see the building become a consolidated hub for Victoria Clipper and Coho ferry traffic.

“There’s a strong sense that we need a combined ferry terminal,” says Grad. “From day one, we’ve had that vision.”

Grad says he’s opened a dialogue with Clipper Navigation Inc. and Coho operator Black Ball Ferry Line about the possibility. “They’re supportive of the concept, but want to see more detail.”

The top floor of the building will likely be used as office space, while Grad hopes the third floor, with its “million-dollar view,” will become an art gallery or some other type of public attraction.

The main level, on Belleville Street, is likely to see a mix of retail and food-service establishments such as a coffee shop, deli/cafe, and possibly a specialty wine and beer store. The 8,000-square-foot first floor, set below street level at the southern end of the Inner Harbour causeway, is still being refurbished but could be a prime location for a high-end restaurant offering al fresco dining overlooking the harbour, according to Grad.

He says the GVHA is evaluating proposals from potential sub-tenants and should reach decisions in four to six weeks. Due to the unique opportunity presented by the property, offers have come in from companies all over the world, but the harbour authority plans to spend up to $1.5 million on tenant improvements and thus wants to secure the right balance of local, national, and international sub-tenants. 

“We want the best of both worlds,” says Grad. “Local knowledge and experience as well as businesses from farther afield. We also want to respect the uniqueness of the space — you won’t be seeing any T-shirt shops or hot-dog vendors.”


Photos from Friday’s media tour: