Courtenay development proposal includes recording studio

A unique development that centres around a recording studio and live performance venue close to Courtenay's downtown core was unveiled last week.

A unique development that centres around a recording studio and live performance venue close to Courtenay’s downtown core was unveiled last week.

Council heard about Tessitura Flats, a proposal by Eirah Unger and Kim Tymkow that feature a four-storey mixed commercial and residential building at 574 Cumberland Rd. and 908 Grieve Ave.

Notice will be given to the adjacent property owners of the proposed development permit with variances, and the application will return to council July 18.

Subject to public input, the permit will be issued to allow construction of a four-storey mixed commercial and residential building at 574 Cumberland Rd. and 908 Grieve Ave., near the school board office and fire hall.

The plans for Tessitura Flats call for a performance studio, primarily for music, which will accommodate up to 180 people and will function as both a venue for live music and a recording studio.

There would be 13 housing units, with a variety of unit sizes and types to provide a range of affordability options.

Two retail spaces — one of which would act as an adjunct to the performance space — would front onto Cumberland Road, and there would be five live/work units. It would all be oriented around a central courtyard.

The proposal also incorporates underground parking for 26 cars, improvements to the Cumberland Road boulevard, and energy conservation and sustainability features based on Build Green.

“The resulting project, we feel, will provide a significant amenity for Courtenay, not only through the performance studio, which will be constructed and operated at no cost to the city, but also in terms of continuing to revitalize and focus this area,” architect John Keay wrote in a letter to council. “The addition of retail onto both Cumberland Grieve, along with the lobby to the performance studio, in combination with the high-quality materials and design concept which are proposed, will provide a strong focus to this area of the city. The project will serve to extend the downtown core out and at the same time will provide a ‘signature’ gateway building.”

Back in 2005, Unger and Tymkow wanted to initiate a project related to culture and the arts.

“Our objective was to find a spot where we could find a venue for young musicians to perform live music because we think that’s important,” Unger told council.

The ability to live and work in the same place and the opportunity to choose different types of housing were also important, he added.

Planning staff is supportive of the proposal.

“While this application requires a significant number of variances, many of the variances are minor in nature and facilitate the development of an innovative, mixed-use, urban development at the entrance to the downtown,” noted the staff report. “Staff believe that this is an attractive development that has the potential to revitalize the surrounding area and enliven the downtown.”

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard congratulated Unger and Tymko on bringing this project forward.

“It hints on many aspects of sustainability in terms of live-work, it plays into creative forces, and I’m quite happy to see this coming to fruition,” she said.

Coun. Doug Hillian was also pleased to see the proposal.

“I think it’s a very imaginative place,” he said. “It creates a living space and a venue … and provides a resource for young people who are aspiring musicians to ply their trade. We always lament that it’s hard for young people to remain in the Valley, and this helps. Congratulations on all the work that’s gone into this.”

Coun. Larry Jangula was cautious, noting there are recent housing developments that have not been sold in the city and many more coming in the near future.

People have already been responding positively to the proposal, noted Unger.

“It’s always a risk when you do that,” he said. “I think what we are going to do with this project is really market the uniqueness. It’s not just residences. It’s a community.”

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