A landmark building in downtown Ladysmith is being scoped out for a major facelift. Actually it’s not quite a facelift, as the new owners of the Island Hotel want to keep the front of the century-old building intact and put up a new building behind the brick facade.
Sally-Christine Rodgers and Randy Repass held a public information meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, at the Eagles Hall, to present their plans for the ‘Islander’ located at 440 First Ave. The pair bought the property a year ago and over the past many months, they have looked into how the historical structure can not only be saved, but to also add vibrancy to the downtown core.
Angela Quek of AYPQ Architecture made a presentation to approximately 50 people and also provided a video and ‘virtual tour’ of the plans for the revised building and how it would fit into Ladysmith’s downtown streetscape.
The existing three-storey structure would be increased to five storeys with the top two floors being stepped back – the fourth floor would be set back 2.7 metres and the fifth floor would be set back another 2.7m. In the town’s draft official community plan, an increase to five storeys would be allowed in the downtown core for residential buildings.
Quek explained that the ground floor would be commercial with the balance of the building being apartments, totalling 20 units. At present, the Island Hotel has 13 units with 11 of them being rented.
“The owners have agreed to abide by all provincial regulations as far as well as the Town of Ladysmith’s renoviction bylaw for proper notification as well as the compensation required,” Quek said when asked about existing tenants.
The back of the proposed Island Hotel building would have entrances for the residential units as well as balconies.
“With this concept, and the balconies, it is hoped that this will help improve the alley, in the back, [into] more of a people place,” Quek said.
The proposal features a public passageway through the first floor from First Avenue to the laneway in the back. The passageway would also allow for access to the four proposed commercial units on the ground floor.
The architect’s computer modelling showed that shadowing appeared not to infringe on First Avenue with the top two floors set back. The images also demonstrated that the proposed height would have no effect on residents in the back, as a little league ball field is situtated directly behind, and the residents of the nearby Villa Apartments would still be looking over the top of the building.
The owners are planning on only four parking spots but have space set aside for bike storage and also plan on installing electric vehicle charging stations. The existing entrance, from First Avenue, will be excavated down to street level to make access easier.
The owners applied for re-zoning, as required by the town, this past spring, and remain in discussion with staff. Quek said “there is still work to do with the town,” but the owners hope the re-zoning application will go before council early in the new year with construction starting as soon as the end of next year.
Rob Johnson, former Ladysmith councillor, attended the meeting and commented that he liked the proposal and what it would mean for the downtown. As a downtown property owner, he said he has concerns about the existing Ladysmith Hotel building and its susceptibility to fire, whereas if the project proceeds, it would be required to meet modern building standards.
The owners said they have built a project similar to the proposed new Island Hotel in the past. They said there is no intention to stratify the improved building.