One of the pioneers of the modernist movement in 1950’s Victoria, Architect John Howard Wade (1914-1997) was a key player in the evolving landscape of Victoria’s urban identity. After working in California with modernist architect Richard Neutra, Wade brought with him the hallmarks of west coast modern style guided by clean lines and simple forms. Along with architects S.P.Birley and C.D.Stockdill, Wade designed numerous institutional buildings including the planning of Centennial Square, buildings at the University of Victoria, Saanich Municipal Hall, the Victoria Airport Terminal Building and the Medical Arts building.
Fast forward almost seventy years and the mint green Medical Arts building in the Harris Green district is on the verge of being restored and repurposed by local developers Max Tomaszewski and David Price of Amadon-Westwater Projects Inc. To preserve the building’s history, Tomaszewski and Price have aptly named the project,The Wade after original architect Wade Stockdill Armour Architects who designed the midcentury building. Plans are set to fully restore the five-storey office complex with a four-storey extension to the east and a new four-storey concrete lowrise at Cook and Johnson streets.
Adding to the region’s housing stock, The Wade will offer 102 condos and ground floor commercial development spanning the east side of Cook Street between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue. “We could have reached for the sky and gone for the views but instead, we wanted to take a European approach and create more of a sustainable urban village,” states Tomaszewski.
One of the advantages of repurposing the building is that the existing facade will be minimally modified, with balconies being the only major addition. A nod to the office building’s original era, the balconies will have a uniform aesthetic with clean lines and simple forms guiding the design. Tomaszewski adds that “balconies were a necessity so we created an unconventional motif to offset the institutional feel that ties into that era.”
A collaboration between Amadon Group and Westwater Property Management Inc, the development has an eye to the future with Tomaszewski’s holistic approach to development at the project’s core. Moving beyond standard sustainability and green living, Tomaszewski’s notion of holistic development is a simple belief that has morphed into something they call ‘forward living.’ Forward living, he explains, has three primary objectives: human wellness, environmental sustainability and technology. Based on the reality that people spend 12-14 hours per day in their homes, Tomaszewski emphasizes that your residence should enhance your opportunity for better health.
So how does forward living translate to tangilble features of the new building? Tomaszewski has a laundry list of features that enhance health while one notable benefit is the water filtration system. “The cost at almost $200,000, this bonus feature will not only filter municipal water, it will also render the water more alkaline which is much healthier for the body. Alkalinity reduces the opportunity for an acid environment and inflammation in the body.”
To further advance the comfort of residents, the units boast 9’6-foot ceilings (10 feet on the top floor) with floor-to-ceiling height windows, manufactured wood flooring and high-quality carpets in bedrooms. The design addresses noise attenuation by orienting half the units toward the courtyard. A public green space will offer a quiet retreat in an otherwise busy area of downtown. Studio units, one and two bedroom/two bathroom condos will range from 360-800 square-feet while three bedroom homes will be as large as 1200 square-feet.
The first of its kind in Victoria, The Wade will offer an urban rooftop farm where residents will have their own plot with their choice of a wildflower, vegetable, or herb garden. In fact, every plant on the property — in the courtyard, rooftop and on the perimeter — has been mandated to be edible. Going one step further, a rooftop apiary will draw pollinators to the gardens and an accompanying fruit tree orchard.
“When we deliver The Wade in 2018, residents will also enjoy a barbecue area for entertaining, a separate zen garden for relaxation and a sauna with views of the Olympic Mountain range. To further enhance the wellness of residents, the tenancies on the ground level will include a health-oriented pharmacy, integrated health clinic, healing modalities, organic cafe and a French bakery.”
The allure of midcentury modernist architecture never seems to fade and by recognizing the building’s assets, The Wade strives to be more human scale with European leanings. “I’m asking the question of whether the notion of forward living and its emphasis on wellness and sustainability combined with technology can be a little bit revolutionary with a lower case ‘r?’ We’ll find out in about two months,” Tomaszewski says with a laugh.
Excavation of the site is set to start in 2017 with the project completed by December 2018.