The University of Victoria plans to turns a site once operated by a religious order into a research centre investigating climate change.

Saanich sends UVic research centre to public hearing

Plans to convert a former care facility once run by a religious order into a research centre investigating climate change are moving forward.

Council Monday cleared the way for a public hearing into plans by the University of Victoria (UVic) to reuse a care facility on Arbutus Road that had once belonged to Sisters of St. Ann.

Located just off the main campus, UVic acquired the facility when it purchased the so-called Queenswood property from the order in 2010 to accommodate future expansion of academic programs and research. The site also includes a retreat centre and a chapel. The buildings on the property, except the care-taker’s cottage, are currently unused.

UVic now plans to reuse the facility for its Ocean and Climate Research Campus and has submitted a site specific rezoning application, as well as a handful of variances.

“The impacts of this rezoning application are almost entirely internal to the former care facility building,” said Peter Kuran, president and chief executive officer (CEO), of UVic Properties. “Other than a new roof, there will be no exterior structural changes or additions.”

Ocean Network Canada (ONC) and other researchers would occupy the facility, said Kuran. “This will free up space on [the main] campus for other uses,” he said.

Created in 2007, ONC operates ocean observatories off the coasts of British Columbia and the Arctic. Policy makers and governments use information gathered from these observatories to help manage climate change and ocean management. ONC employs about 100 researchers, scientists, technicians administrators and teachers among other staff.

Funding for the project comes from both the federal government and the university itself, said Kuran. UVic had applied for the federal funding in the fall of 2016 and received approval to move forward in May of this year, he said. “We have to be completed by the end of April 2018,” he said.

Coun. Susan Brice praised UVic’s diligence in seeking community support, while Coun. Fred Haynes praised UVic’s decision to re-purpose the building.

“I think it will be fantastic campus for this excellent research group that has international acclaim,” said Haynes.

A staff report notes that public comments about the project generally appeared positive, with several residents pleased to see the site coming into use again. Some members of the public however also also expressed “some concerns” about increased traffic on Arbutus Road close to a children’s centre/daycare.