Fate of BC whale mural up in the air as building redevelopment proposed

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The owner of a building with a well-known orca mural in downtown Victoria says it’s not yet known whether it will be redone during a planned redevelopment of the building.

Robert Fung, president of Vancouver-based Salient Group, said he is a lifelong fan of the artist known as Wyland, who painted the three-story mural depicting the A5 pod of orcas on the north façade of the Yates Block building almost four decades ago.

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The fate of the 1987 mural at 1244-1252 Wharf St. has been hotly debated since the American artist floated the idea of ​​restoring it on social media last month.

“Wyland is pushing for it to be done. We’ve been in communication for two years,” Fung said. “We have a process to follow with the city and redoing that mural will be subject to our heritage alteration plan.”

Nearly 37 years since Salt Spring Island artist Robert Bateman dedicated the mural, it shows signs of fading.

On Friday, Victor Stepanov, who grew up in Victoria and has seen the mural his entire life, said he favors a restoration even though he doesn’t much like orcas. “They are so cruel and they throw seals.”

The way the orca’s eyes were painted on the mural shows a more peaceful side to marine mammals, he said.

Passing cyclist Calvin Tripp said that while the artwork could use a touch-up, he doesn’t have a firm opinion on whether it should be restored. “It’s a big blank canvas. “Any kind of thing that goes in there will be fine.”

Wyland, who has painted about 100 similar murals around the world to raise awareness about the world’s marine and ocean life, has been trying to restore some of the oldest and most faded ones.

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In a heritage conservation plan submitted to the city last November, heritage consultant Donald Luxton and Associates said removing the mural would damage the building’s bricks, since the paint was applied directly to them.

A hotel has been planned for the site since 2020, but Salient Group’s most recent proposal in November involves preserving the existing five-storey heritage building and adding two additional floors on top to create a total of 52 units for mixed-use residential and hotelier. .

The ground floor would retain a commercial space that would be suitable for a restaurant or other food establishment.

Designed by John Teague, Yates Block was first built in 1882 and has undergone several renovations and additions since then. At different times in the building’s history, it has been a dry goods and grocery store, a boat outfitter, and a restaurant.

The building, with three floors above street level and two below sloping towards the port, has been virtually empty since its last tenant, Pacific Design Academy, moved into Bastion Square in 2022.

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