The Victoria Downtown Residents Association says green space needs to be a bigger priority in the downtown core. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

As Victoria struggles for green space, city is urged to look up

Urbanists hope to see Victoria’s unused rooftops, parkades, parking lots become usable green space

It might not be a concrete jungle, but the Victoria Downtown Residents Association (DRA) says green space needs to be prioritized before downtown land is swallowed up by development.

“The main issue is that we aren’t generating the amenities we need to be generating for the rise in the development here,” said Paul Gandall, DRA president. “If you pour more people into an area and you don’t collect the funds to create the amenities for those individuals, you don’t end up with a particularly live-able neighbourhood.”

READ ALSO: Downtown Victoria condo project offers ‘new ethos’ in urban living

Gandall says green space hasn’t been prioritized the way he says it needs to be. Thomas Guerrero says things should be looking up — quite literally.

Recently, the Victoria blogger posted about vast unused space in Victoria’s skyline: rooftops.

“Open up the satellite view of Victoria on Google Maps and the rooftops all look pretty black,” wrote blogger and urbanist Guerrero. “Sure there is the odd green roof here and there but the vast majority of the city looks to be covered with tar paper or gravel.”

“People are always saying they would like more spaces to have recreation or parks downtown, here we have this vast open space that’s just not being used,” Guerrero said in a phone interview with Black Press Media. “In New York you have things like the Highline Park, which uses an old rail line. A school or office building downtown could maybe be turned into a public park.”

Gandall said the DRA hasn’t focused much on rooftops, but likes the idea of transforming idle space.

“If we’re seriously moving towards limiting the presence of vehicles in the downtown core, there’s five city parkades located here…I don’t know about the feasibility of it but switching some of those rooftops into a community space that involves greenery might not be a terrible idea,” he said. “But there’s still so many underutilized spaces that we have in the form of parking lots – or just abandoned lots – that are being held onto by developers for their land value but not necessarily serving the community right now.”

The city’s Downtown Core Area Plan (DCAP) reveals a 17 per cent population increase downtown between 2001 and 2006 and forecasts a significant population growth over the next few decades. Population forecasts from the Capital Regional District place an additional 10,000 residents in the downtown area by 2038.

Composed of the central business district, historic commercial district, Inner Harbour district, residential mixed-use district and Rock Bay district, Victoria’s downtown spans from Bay Street to Superior Street. Green spaces and urban forests are included DCAP’s plan as a method of improving “overall livability.”

“Over 30 years of the lifespan of that particular plan, they’re really looking to try to increase the number of parks and urban greenspace available to these areas,” Gandall notes. “And it just doesn’t feel like we’re making much progress in that direction at this time.”

A number of parks are listed in Victoria’s downtown, but most are composed mainly of pavement. One such area is Bridgehead Green, near Wharf and Store Streets. In a tweet, the DRA notes that the “green” is divided by sidewalks and roads.

Another example is Centennial Square, a significant chunk of park space carved out downtown between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue, but again, mostly paved.

“All of those areas, which are open spaces, are not urban green spaces. They’re not parks. They’re just large concrete spaces,” Gandall said.

Victoria’s Parks and Open Spaces Master Plan notes the role of green space in providing a “range of different experiences” and encouraging active living.

“There’s a pretty wide spread acceptance of the idea that close access to green space is definitely important to life experiences,” Gandall said. “It’s good for mental health, physical health. It builds communities. As we move away from a downtown that’s car-based, it makes it increasingly difficult for families to travel to facilities and amenities.”

READ ALSO: Crystal Pool should serve city’s most vulnerable: North Park Neighbourhood Association

Gandall says the notion that only affluent single professionals live downtown is shifting. He says more families are moving in.

“Sometimes there’s an impression that the downtown is either largely commercial or it’s affluent condominium owners,” Gandall said. “But practically speaking, the downtown is really at a point where you have a lot of individuals moving into the area who are younger families and renters…and really do need the ability to take the kids to a playground near by.”

Recently, downtown acquired the Yates Street Community Garden. It’s not quite a park, but it’s a step in the right direction, says Gandall. In the mean time, the DRA will continue pushing for parks.

“There really needs to be some sort of push to purchase either parking lots or other empty land that’s idle, or just better use and design of existing spaces.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Rare comet dazzles night sky over Saanich Peninsula

Comet NEOWISE is passing Earth for the first time in 7,000 years

COLUMN: For Generation X, COVID-19 isolation just something to grin and bear

Segment of society has been training for this our whole lives

Island community scurrying to ban rat poisons

In-house municipal ban ‘small but important first step’ to protect wildlife, Saanich councillor says

Suspicious fire quenched before reaching gunpowder in Nanaimo’s historic Bastion

Probe underway in basement blaze that erupted near where powder stored to fire signature cannons

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two taken to hospital after Island Highway crash near Cobble Hill

Vehicles damaged, drivers taken to hospital as incident south of Duncan temporarily snarls traffic

Owner of Langford construction company gets nine months for sexual assault

Kyle Mostowy already spent time in prison for sexually assaulting employees

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Duncan model makes quarter finals in ‘Maxim’ magazine contest

Brandee Peart among top one per cent left in competition

Province announces plans for permanent supportive housing at four Nanaimo sites

B.C. ministry and City of Nanaimo partnering on 190 supportive housing units

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Most Read