Downtown 2020 Part 1: What is behind downtown Victoria’s rapid growth?

Downtown 2020 Part 1: What is behind downtown Victoria's rapid growth?

WATCH: B.C.’s capital is undergoing an unprecedented period of redevelopment and the building boom is going to produce a very different downtown by 2020. April Lawrence reports in the first instalment of Downtown 2020 – The New Victoria. 

Forget seagulls, it’s cranes that dominate the skies in downtown Victoria these days.

The once-sleepy city is now buzzing with the sounds of construction as workers piece together a new look for B.C.’s capital.

“I think we’re no longer a secret, Victoria has been discovered,” Victoria City Councillor Margaret Lucas said. 

Victoria’s downtown core is considered the area roughly bordered by Cook Street in the east, extending into Vic West. It will soon be home to more people than now live in the municipality of Esquimalt.

From 2011 to 2016, nearly 1200 new residents moved into the downtown core, an increase of 15.5 per cent.  

But that’s nothing compared to what’s coming.

Nearly 1500 residential units are under or completing construction ? that will bring up to 2,500 more residents to the area in the next year or two.

“We’re well on track to meeting the goal of 10,000 new residents or additional residents in the downtown by 2041,” Jonathan Tinney, the City of Victoria’s director of planning said. 

Victoria has always been a desirable place to live, so why the rapid growth now?

City Councillor Margaret Lucas said the booming tech industry is bringing a younger population to the city.

“We now have United Airlines that has direct flights down to San Francisco, so for a lot of these startups this is an affordable place for them to start, especially with the American dollar where it’s at, that has a big impact,” Lucas said. 

But today’s condo construction boom didn’t happen by accident.

Orchestrated by city planners, Victoria has been undergoing a transformation for decades.

One and two storey buildings are slowly giving way to high-rises ? a concept that gained momentum six years ago.

“Twenty-eleven was when the official community plan was adopted which really identified that about half of the city’s growth would occur in the downtown core,” Tinney said. 

And the people moving here aren’t just buying up condos, developers are also adding rental apartments to the mix.

“Low-interest rates is probably the biggest factor as interest rates pick up in years to come it will have a negative impact on building rental,” Rick Ilich, CEO of Townline Homes, the developer of the Hudson buildings, said. 

“The city recognizes the need for housing so they don’t put up road blocks, they’re opening the door for business.”

It’s all resulting in a buzz, not just from the cranes overhead, but in the streets below.

“We’re just generally going to see downtown be a more vibrant place,” said Tinney.

So expect big changes by 2020.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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