Victoria’s Ship Point redesign will transform parking lots into public space


It should be a jewel in the Inner Harbour. But a dominant feature at Ship Point is two blacktop parking lots. The City of Victoria is hoping a re-design of the five acres will transform the area an urban destination. Mary Griffin reports.

In 1907, construction of the Empress Hotel was underway and Ship Point was crowded with vessels. Now home to two parking lots and a few commercial businesses, the area is about to undergo some dramatic changes.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the area will be mostly replaced by a green space, a small commercial pavilion and an urban beach on the other side of Harbour Air.

“Imagine you’ve just arrived on a flight, and your meeting doesn’t start for a couple of hours. You can go and sit on the beach,” Helps said while describing a section of the re-design of Ship Point.

Accessibility is part of the design as pedestrians now compete with vehicles in and out of Ship Point. The driveways will be replaced, with a staircase on one side, and walkways on the other.

“The vision for Ship Point is to really implement a signature water-front destination.  And a signature open space.  And cultural space.  And really doing that by trying to connect the water’s edge, and Ship Point to the larger downtown area,” says City of Victoria Senior Urban Designer Joaquin Karakas.

The design will have similar elements to Vancouver’s Granville Market, with a mix of industrial and retail that will draw tourists and locals.

A road will maintain access to businesses, which will serve large yacht owners visiting Victoria.

“In order to provision these larger yachts, there needs to be vehicle access. And with the plan that we’ve seen, the final plan, it looks like they’ve incorporated that into the plan.  So, we’re very excited by what the city has come up with,” says Ian Robertson, CEO, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Redeveloping the five acres will likely cost millions and will likely happen in stages. The price tag is still be determined.

“It will probably not be 100 per cent taxpayer funded. And if it is taxpayer funded, it’ll probably be through a creative approach,” Helps said.

The city is holding two open houses for public input.

Saturday from 11:30 to 2 p.m., and Monday from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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