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The Wedge High-Rise, Already Earning Rave Reviews

When construction of The Wedge residential and commercial tower is completed in early 2023, it will be one of the most talked about new buildings in downtown Victoria.

In fact, the $50-million project had already generated considerable buzz before there were any shovels in the ground, receiving a ringing endorsement from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference which awarded it the Golden Nugget Award for the Best On-The- Boards Multifamily Community this summer.

“Receiving the award solidifies the importance of what we’re doing and how we like to push the boundaries of architecture. We have never liked building boxes,” says Dan Cox, president of project development at Cox Developments and a co-owner of Blackrete Builders, the construction manager for the project. “On top of that, we’re actually bringing this unique design to reality when many of these Best- On-the-Boards projects never make it to construction. I think it shows we’re moving in the right direction when we receive acknowledgement like this.”

To say The Wedge will push boundaries might be a bit of an understatement. Its unique, 15-storey cantilevered design will be an architectural first for Victoria. Beginning on the second floor, each subsequent floor will extend out an additional two feet from the floor below it. This will give the eastern-facing front of the building an angled appearance and make it look like its hovering over its own foundation.

Cox says the tower’s one-of-a-kind look was the brainchild of Douglas Austin, founder and CEO of San Diego-based project architect AVRP Skyport.

“Out of nowhere, Douglas said he had a dream one night of what he thought the building should look like. The next morning, he sent us a sketch and it fit with our philosophy to push the envelope as much as we can with architecture, so we said let’s do it,” says Cox.

The project is located at the corner of Vancouver and Johnson Streets on land formerly occupied by the McCall Brothers Funeral Home. Civic leaders and community members advocated to have the on-site chapel, designed in 1955 by famed Victoria architect John Di Castri, retained and repurposed as part of the project. The cantilever design helps make up for the lost density at the base of the building that results from preserving the chapel.

“The property held a lot of meaning for many people,” says Cox. “It was really important for the neighbourhood and the city to retain as much of the building as possible.”

Trevor Weber, president and CEO for Blackrete, says even though the angled design of the tower’s front is something that’s never been done in Victoria, it’s a welcome challenge. He says it’s buildable in terms of its constructability, thanks in part to a highly-skilled local workforce and engineering team being overseen by Victoriabased RJC Engineers.

Weber says one of the more challenging design aspects of the project is the cantilevered slab edges and 82 degree racked columns. As a result, Blackrete designed custom-made steel formworks assemblies which are being manufactured by Alliance Engineering Works in Victoria. Another challenge posed by the project’s unique design, according to Cox, is that it will require considerably more shoring to ensure there is no damaged caused to the chapel during construction of the tower.

When it opens, The Wedge will feature 93 rental units with commercial space on the main floor in the heart of Victoria’s Harris Green district. There will be a variety of one, two, and three bedroom suites that will range in size between 460 and 1,481 square feet and offer a spectacular view of the Juan De Fuca Strait.

The development has been designed to shadow LEED Platinum Certification and will feature several eco-friendly features such as a water conservation system and on-site power generation. In addition, each unit will have its own heat recovery ventilator (HRV) system designed to recover up to 60 per cent of the heat that would typically be lost in many older buildings.

“The fact that you can recover much of the heat loss is better for the end user, the environment, and of course the cost of the building,” says Doug Paterson, senior project manager for Blackrete.

The project’s original plans called for a huge solar panel array on the tower’s roof that would have been one of the first such installations on Vancouver Island. Those plans have since been shelved, Cox says, after it was determined there simply aren’t enough hours of sun in the area to warrant proceeding with the installation.

Excavation on the site began in August and was scheduled to wrap up by the end of the year. Weber says his company has been fortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t caused any delays so far and doesn’t see it resulting in negative schedule impacts for this project, at least not until interior finishing work begins.

“We have a unique company which offers a construction perspective from both the construction and development side,” says Cox. n