A Prosperous Downtown & Thriving Neighbourhoods

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1. Make downtown prosperous
Downtown Victoria is going through a renaissance. On the one hand, there are many vacant retail and commercial spaces. These need attention immediately. On the other hand, there are many encouraging signs of new life – new businesses, new residences, more food trucks, parking spots turned parks, and more. To be prosperous for the long term, downtown needs to attract a diversity of people, including young families. Downtown needs public spaces that are alive and buzzing with energy, not only in the summer months. To help make all this happen, City Hall must play a leadership role.

COMMITMENT: Take a leadership role to make downtown prosperous 

  • Year one: Establish a “Downtown Prosperity Project” comprised of staff from relevant departments, downtown residents and business owners. Set deliverables and timelines for a prosperous downtown and map out a four year action plan on how to get there. Explore best practices and easy wins from other cities. Foster a spirit of experimentation and implement pilot projects to test concepts before spending a lot of money. Foster and support public markets, festivals, food carts and other uses that make downtown public spaces alive.

  • Ongoing: Make downtown public spaces attractive, inviting and accessible for a diversity of people including children and young families by investing more money through the City’s capital budget and developing the downtown budget in partnership with the Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Victoria Downtown Residents Association.

COMMITMENT: Reduce retail and commercial vacancies

  • Year one: Establish an ‘enterprise facilitator’, to support the start up and relocation of businesses to Victoria, outlined in City of Opportunities.

  • Year two: Develop a fast-track approval process to fill temporary vacancies for temporary uses like pop-up businesses, non-profits, gathering spaces, art installations, and more.

  • Year two: Actively recruit start-ups and established businesses from the Pacific Northwest and beyond to locate in or re-locate to Victoria.

  • Year three: Develop a business case for designating certain portions of downtown as Economic Revitalization areas and providing a property tax exemption to be passed on to tenants.

  • Ongoing: Work with downtown social service providers and the Victoria Police to make downtown a place that is safe and welcoming for everyone.

COMMITMENT: Actively support downtown development

  • Year one: Review bonus density program and modify it to ensure that it’s meeting the needs of the public and the development industry. Move to per square foot calculation of bonus density rather than an economic land-lift analysis. Make sum payable at occupancy rather than at building permit stage. Create, with development community, a ‘bonus density exemption program’ where the City and the development community agree to a list of amenities or building features and if a certain number or combination of amenities or features are included in a project, the developer granted extra density without a cash contribution.

  • Years two to four: Explore the possibility of undertaking a City-initiated rezoning of all properties in the area covered by the Downtown Core Area and zoning properties in accordance with what is anticipated in the plan. Examine the possibility of a zone that sets height restrictions but leaves floor space ratio to the discretion of the developer within a set of guidelines.

2. Focus on the harbour
Victoria’s Harbour is the heart of the downtown, a site of industry, a beautiful natural place and the gateway to Canada. Not since the installation of the lower causeway during the term of Mayor Peter Pollen has the inner harbour seen significant investment. Much of the public realm around the harbour is surface parking lots. Our harbour needs attention.

COMMITMENT: Take a leadership role in harbour revitalization

  • Year one: Take a leadership role and work collaboratively with the Province, Tourism Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, owners of the Coho and Clipper, and Victoria residents to revitalize the Belleville Terminal and the Terminal Precinct.

  • Year two: Develop and implement a plan for interim uses of the City-owned lands at Ship’s Point while at the same time undertaking a long-term development plan. Pop-up retail and other creative, interim uses of this important public space are key.

  • Ongoing: Continue to invest time and money in the David Foster Pathway and the harbour special places project in the inner harbour.

3. Build great neighbourhoods
Victoria is a city of neighbourhoods. The City’s Official Community Plan organizes land use around strong village centres with active transportation networks between them. Neighbourhood residents, businesses and neighbourhood associations need to play a key role in co-creating the places where they live, work and play. Strong neighbourhoods lead to well-being, connectedness and a sense of belonging. City Hall needs to nurture this sense of place and support neighbourhood leadership.

COMMITMENT: Build great neighbourhoods with you

  • Year two: Create a Great Neighbourhoods Project (for similar initiative in Edmonton head here) comprised of staff from relevant departments, neighbourhood residents and business owners. Create an action plan with deliverables, timelines, and an inclusive, participatory process. Include small wins and short-term successes in each neighbourhood along the way to larger milestones.

  • Year two: Work collaboratively with neighbourhood residents, re-create the neighbourhood grant process (Neighbourhood Matching, Shape Your Future and Greenways) to be more flexible, responsive and easier to access.

  • Ongoing: Through the Great Neighbourhoods Project Team foster, support and provide resources to neighbourhood-based citizen-led initiatives including but not limited to community and boulevard gardens, placemaking initiatives, neighbourhood markets, festivals and more.

  • Ongoing: Through the Great Neighbourhoods Project Team foster, support and provides resources to neighbourhood-based economic development initiatives.

Keep reading: Leading with Courage