A small street in downtown Victoria could be closed to traffic for good if a group of business owners gets their way.
The 1000-block of Broad Street — between Broughton and Fort streets — has been closed to vehicle traffic for months after the city started a pedestrian-only pilot project as part of the Build Back Victoria program.
Now, a group of business owners along that section of Broad Street are petitioning the City of Victoria to permanently close the road to vehicle traffic, saying that even with COVID-19, the closure has meant steady foot traffic and customers, especially through the summer.
“My whole staff was working, it got so good that for part of the summer we didn’t need to use any of the subsidies,” said Pagliacci’s co-owner, Solomon Siegel, who admits not all businesses are on board with the idea.
On Thursday, city councillors will debate whether to extend the closure until the end of the year and continue pedestrianizing the street during a committee of the whole meeting, after a motion on the matter was brought forward by Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Jeremy Loveday.
“Residents and the local businesses are in support,” said Loveday, who believes the vote will pass. “I think it’s created a unique sense of space there, that people want to be there, and then want to support those businesses as well.”
Since the pilot project was introduced in the spring, the city has beautified it by adding in overhead lighting, benches, a planter and even a little library.
“By creating a space for us, it saved our business,” said Siegel. “This summer was absolute magic. It was so beautiful out here, we had live music outside every day. We had people eating outside properly spaced for COVID as safe as could be.”
Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said the Build Back Victoria program and temporary patios are providing a huge boost to struggling businesses.
“The patios and parklets really were a game-changer for restaurants who had very restricted capacity,” said Bray. “But not just restaurants but also their employees, their servers getting extra shifts. Like any business the more people that walk by the business, the more likely some are going to walk in, the more people walk in, the more sales you are likely to make.”