Victoria Developer says Riversdale Could Be the Next Gastown

The next phase of River Landing could transform Riversdale into something resembling Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood, says the man behind the multimillion-dollar riverbank development.

“It’s raw, it’s gritty, but there is a passion in that neighbourhood and that’s what excited me,” said Chris Le Fevre, the Victoria-based developer who purchased the 1.4-acre piece of real estate for $4.13 million last week.

In recent decades, Gastown — one of the oldest inner-city neighbourhoods in Vancouver — has gentrified into a mix of trendy restaurants, boutiques and upscale housing while maintaining its historical significance, Le Fevre said.

When he first laid eyes on the section of River Landing — now a parking lot west of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market building — Le Fevre said he had the same feeling he did when he first started developing in Gastown more than 35 years ago.

“I’m not a guy that builds for elite people. I think that’s very important to stress because the Riversdale community — which is quietly regenerating — still needs product that people can afford,” Le Fevre said.

The $4.13-million property is on 19th Street West bordered by avenues B and C and will be developed into “Riversdale Mews,” Le Fevre.

Full details have yet to be revealed, but the eventual building will include commercial or office spaces at ground level and residential spaces above. The building will be between six and eight storeys tall.

Le Fevre is well-known for his redevelopment projects in downtown Victoria — transforming old warehouse brick buildings into valuable condos. He says he has already bought some vacant properties “within minutes” of the River Landing site in Riversdale and said he will likely redevelop those into multi-unit dwellings in the coming years.

“I’m not a guy that builds faux heritage, that’s what you need to know,” he said. “It won’t be just an ordinary block, manufactured on an easy basis. It will have some very profound elements to it, but also capture some of your heritage as well.”

His most recent project is the redevelopment of a section of Victoria’s inner harbour called The RailYards, which includes modern looking condos and townhouses. His company has also developed various resorts in B.C.

Le Fevre has one year to get his development plans approved, both by the city and the Meewasin Valley Authority. The project must also abide by strict architectural controls regarding the size, colour and building style that have been laid out for the River Landing area.

Le Fevre said he respects the guidelines, but said he will bring flavour to the area.

“It’s going to need an edge. I’m not just a vanilla guy. It’s going to get that edge, don’t you worry,” Le Fevre said.

A second piece of land at River Landing will go up for sale in 2014 and is zoned for a 25-storey mixed-use tower. It is located between Avenue A, the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and 19th Street South to Spadina Crescent.

The final parcel of land at River Landing will go up for sale in 2016. The 1.7-acre Parcel BB is zoned for a low-rise six-to eight-storey waterfront housing complex.