As the son of a man credited with building much of the infrastructure of Metro Vancouver, Rick Ilich spent his summers from age 12 through high school installing and repairing pipe on infrastructure projects.
A year after high school, though, he bolted from his dad’s employ and took a job with First National Lands as a project coordinator. In 1981, he founded his own company, Townline, just as a severe economic downturn pummeled construction.
Townline bought the Bay site in 2004. Then in 2008 another financial crunch delayed work on Ilich’s ambitious Hudson project plans for a few years. In December 2009, the provincial government even offered to invest $32.8 million in the project but backed off on that the following year.
As the economy recovered, the Hudson revitalization proceeded apace. Four of the six buildings in the current plan have been completed. The former Bay store building now houses the Victoria Public Market on the ground floor and 152 condos on the upper floors. Three new buildings — Hudson Mews, and Hudson Walk One and Two — have more than 400 rental units combined.
“They’ve taken a chance on that neighbourhood and revitalized it so that it’s really thriving with a lot of retail and housing, which is important,” says Jayne Bradbury, who chairs the Urban Development Institute Capital Region and is co-owner with her sister Suzanne of Fort Properties.
The first of two planned towers — the 25-storey Hudson Place One — received approval from Victoria city council in April. At build out, the total cost of the entire Hudson project will approach $900 million, Ilich estimates.