Source: Douglas Magazine
Author: Susan Hollis
Downtown Victoria is Dealing with Unprecedented Change
Douglas takes a snapshot of our downtown as people argue over and innovate solutions for keeping the urban core great amidst fast growth.
How you experience downtown Victoria depends greatly on which blocks you explore. Some are flush with heritage charm. Others are contemporary — curated to meet the needs of a tech-fuelled workforce. Then there are the buildings that have seen better days but provide important and affordable rentals.
Not only does downtown have many sides, it must satisfy many needs. It’s the commercial, retail, tourism and entertainment hub for the Capital Region, and it’s home to some 8,460 residents and growing (according to 2016 Census data on downtown, Harris Green and North Park). The City of Victoria’s 2012 Official Community Plan (OCP) predicted downtown would see 10,000 new residents by 2042, but 2019 stats show Victoria has already reached 40 per cent of that population expectation. The likelihood of this region exceeding OCP predictions is high.
There are pluses and minuses to the increased density. Retail vacancy rates have fallen to under four per cent under the current mayor and council, down from 10 per cent in 2014. Many stakeholders say having more people living downtown will increase the area’s safety, which is important to those who already live or work there.