Victoria downtown revitalization using parking fees plan in full swing

Victoria downtown revitalization using parking fees plan in full swing
Victoria's downtown revitalization plan encompasses the area between Belleville and Discovery streets, and Blanshard Street to the water.

Just over two months after paid parking hours in Victoria were voted to be extended, staff have returned to council with a plan on how to use those funds for downtown revitalization.

When the extended hours were approved, council earmarked those funds to be used for beautification, maintenance, cultural opportunities, new parks and amenities and public safety in the downtown core.

READ MORE: Downtown Victoria paid parking longer hours, higher rates start May 1

On Thursday, staff returned to council and estimated an additional $950,000 will be earned from those extended hours, and unveiled the plan to use the funds for that purpose.

Victoria staff’s plan proposes downtown revitalization in four different categories, programming and activation, beautification, cleaning, and safety.

For programming and activation, the plan calls for things like arts and culture programs, temporary and interactive installations, markets, events and festivals, walking tours, pop-up businesses, and food trucks.

“Programming and seasonal animation was either cancelled or reduced due to gathering restrictions or financial mitigation strategies as a result of the pandemic,” Kerri Moore, director of business and community relations said in her presentation to council.

“2023 marks the return of our regularly scheduled programming and with that in mind, even before council approved the additional funding to reinvest in our downtown core, staff from many departments were well into their annual work plans to confirm the programming and seasonal animation for this year.”

Beautification includes plans for street furniture, public art, horticultural displays, seasonal lighting, banners, and paintings.

“Some of the elements that include hanging approximately 1,600 of our renowned flower baskets, installing the 3D orca whale horticultural display along with other enhanced flower displays, installing 400 summer banners with a fresh new art sign,” Moore said.

For safety, staff plans to increase practical and decorative lighting, increase patrols by Victoria police and bylaw, and foster a safe space in the core.

“Staff will be implementing lighting enhancements from both the practical and decorative perspective. This will include safety lighting and identifying darker areas of the downtown core, as named in the sociable city report done in 2019,” said Quinn Anglin, Victoria’s manager of economic development.

“Increased decorative lighting will also support safety initiatives including more lighting in the streets, in public gathering areas and projections on buildings to provide increased sense of animation and programming year-round.”

Mayor Marianne Alto said she was happy to see this plan come back to council, and how quickly staff were able to put it together.

“The salient point of this is how remarkable it is, at how quickly you’ve turned a direction of council into actions,” Alto said.

“And a great example for us, I think, in being able to rely on staff to actually determine and imagine and envision and execute whatever needs to get done to actually accomplish our goals and maybe a reminder to council that we stick to the goals and let the staff figure out how to accomplish them.”

The mayor added this program is meant to create an experience to locals and tourists that will draw them back to the downtown core.

“We’re also talking about adding spaces that are active, like concerts that have activities, that have food trucks, that have things you can actually have downtown and really experience what a downtown is when it’s super vibrant,” said Alto.

Coun. Stephen Hammond noted that when the vote came before council he initially wasn’t too excited at the idea of extending paid parking hours, but is happy to see the proposed plan.

“When we were going to be getting the money through extending the parking and the rates, I said I was selling my soul to get some of the safety aspects in there,” Hammond said. “All of the things that you’ve shown me, let me know that it was a good sale in the whole scheme of things.”

Councillor Jeremy Caradonna says this move will help change narrative that people have about downtown’s safety.

“It’s a largely false narrative. Downtown Victoria is mainly a safe place to be, it certainly has some challenges, but we do feel it’s the right time to invest in our downtown,” said Caradonna.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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