‘Wrong tree for the wrong space’: Centennial Square redesign passes first step, sequoia tree to be removed

'Wrong tree for the wrong space': Centennial Square redesign passes first step, sequoia tree to be removed
City of Victoria
Victoria staff noted the sequoia tree is growing toward a number of utilities that are underneath the square.

The Centennial Square redesign has passed in committee of the whole with minor amendments, and the final design will see the removal of three large trees in the square.

The amended motion passed 6-3 with Couns. Marg Gardiner, Stephen Hammond and Chris Coleman in opposition.

Though councillors asked about saving the sequoia tree, Victoria staff said there are issues with the tree that mean it must be removed at some point.

“This is a case where the – it’s the wrong tree for the wrong space. The growing conditions below the tree are in sandy soil and this is a very large tree that was planted on top of what is the former Cormorant Street,” Derrick Newman, the new director of parks, recreation and facilities said in committee of the whole.

“Through some recent repair work that was done to the sweet gum tree just outside of the city hall doors, we discovered that the old asphalt from Cormorant Street is still below there, and these trees were planted on top of it.”

In addition to the less-than-ideal growing conditions, Newman said the roots are growing towards utility services, including a BC Hydro vault, numerous hydro lines, telecom and a water main underneath the square.

Newman says it is not critical that the tree be removed immediately, but it will have to be removed at some point, which is part of why the removal was built into the square redesign, rather than building the square around a tree that must be removed.

One amendment councillors made to the plan was to direct staff to repurpose the timber from that and other removed trees somewhere within Victoria.

Construction of the square will cost $9.15 million for the first phase and $2.2 million for the second phase. Staff has also allocated $750,000 for the design.

The province is kicking in $4.5 million through the Growing Community Grant, and the city estimates it will need to fund $7.45 through debt.

Upgrades to the square

The first phase of the project will be to upgrade the areas between Douglas Street and the central plaza with construction expected to begin in mid-2025 and be complete in late-2026.

The second phase would implement expanded green areas and the commercial kiosk starting in mid-2027, complete by early-2028.

The goal of the plan is to make the square a place for people to gather, bringing in whimsy and play.

A new water feature is envisioned for children to play. The staff report also includes an open area that they envision tents to be set up for markets, or for other events to take place.

The square also comes with improved accessibility, as staff noted the current set up has a number of stairs which affect the ability for people with mobility impairments from easily accessing the square.

The plan still needs to come back to council during a daytime meeting for final adoption next week before moving ahead.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria staff submit Centennial Square redesign report

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!