City of Victoria seeks design plans to make Government Street more pedestrian friendly

WatchThe City of Victoria has requested design plans from qualified consultants to help turn Government Street into an urban haven for pedestrians. Rebecca Lawrence reports

Government Street could soon be getting a makeover.

The City of Victoria has requested design plans from qualified consultants to help turn a section of the popular street from Humboldt Street to Pandora Avenue into an urban haven for pedestrians.

In Summer 2020, the street became a car-free patio and extended walkway as the city closed the road to traffic.

The increase in foot traffic helped Chocolats Favoris, a local shop that sells dipped ice cream cones and other treats, keep afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having it open to pedestrians, it definitely gave government street more attention,” said Jason Szymanski, Team leader at Chocolats Favoris. “Having something change from car-accessible to pedestrian-only, it brought more attention to the road so that just brings more people to the area in general.”

With Summer long gone, cars can now drive through the street again, however, there could be pedestrian-priority plans on the horizon.

Soon, the water main underneath Government Street will need to be replaced. While the pavement will already be ripped up, the city is thinking of killing two birds with one stone, looking to redesign it at the same time.

READ MORE: Government Street businesses need support, prepping for another tourist-free season

Dave Harris, a busker who’s been singing on the street for more than 40 years, says it’s time to kick cars to the curb on Government Street.

“They could open it up for an hour for deliveries or something like that, but overall, keep cars off Government Street. It would be a much more cultural place, encourages the arts,” said Harris.

Right now, Victoria is just asking for designers to submit some options. It’s unclear how much, or if any of the street will become permanently car-free.

“We support making better public realm but we also want to recognize that government street still is a thoroughfare,” said Jeff Bray, the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “We want to make sure we enhance access, not just alter access, making sure we’re meeting the needs of delivery trucks, hotel zones, bikes, pedestrians and motor vehicles.”

Some development companies have already posted their proposed plans for the street. Victoria-based company Aryze has announced its detailed proposal. In the plans, car access is allowed for some of the street, but not all of it.

For Chocolate Favoris, the loss of vehicle access is a double-edged sword.

“It does make it harder for us to get deliveries and we do delivery through Uber Eats, so drivers would have to find a place to park, but those are minor downsides overall,” said Szymanski.

For now, these plans are in the early stages and nothing has been decided, but it seems big changes could be coming for Government Street.

The City of Victoria is seeking design plans from qualified consultants to help turn a stretch of Government Street from Pandora Avenue to Humbolt Street into an urban haven for pedestrians. (CHEK News/Google Earth)

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Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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