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Downtown Victoria activity cause for optimism in economic recovery: City report

Pandemic may not be over, but growth being seen on many fronts downtown
There were 233,326 more pedestrians on Government Street from February to October 2021 over the same period in the previous pandemic-affected year. (Black Press Media file photo)

Record downtown vitality, apparent in the increased foot and vehicle traffic and issued business licenses over the last year, indicates significant growth in Victoria’s economic recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the city.

A report from Victoria’s business hub recorded 233,326 more pedestrians on Government Street from February to October 2021 over the same period the previous year; an increase of 27.7 per cent. Downtown street parking grew 13 per cent over 2020, while business licenses grew 27.9 per cent, with 609 total by the end of October.

“What’s really striking to me is that despite the comparatively limited travel and fewer visitors, we are seeing strong growth in our recovery and the number of people coming into the downtown,” Mayor Lisa Helps said in a release. “Our strong recovery is a joint effort of our businesses and residents who continue to see downtown as a great place to visit, shop and live.”

The city credited its Victoria 3.0 Economic Action Plan, Business Hub and Build Back Victoria program, the latter of which brought about permanent implementation of a patio bylaw to extend public spaces, for increased entrepreneur optimism.

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Gabriel Ross Furniture founder Ross Taylor, who recently purchased a building on Government Street after operating for years in the Rock Bay neighbourhood, added his voice to the mix.

“We recognized that no other location can put our brand in front of a local, national and international audience like downtown Victoria,” he said, noting the area’s revitalization will set it up for a prosperous future.

“With pent-up demand for in-person experiences, we’re looking forward to joining so many other local businesses and becoming part of this vibrant community.”

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams also weighed in, noting that data show more workers are back in downtown offices and the value of construction has increased considerably.

A report entitled Building Back Victoria - By the Numbers, showed year-over-year increases in building permit applications and construction values of 13 and 28 per cent, respectively, between 2020 and 2021.

“Those are all positive signs that our economy is recovering,” Williams said. “Growing our economy is key to ensuring we have strong, diversified and resilient communities now and in the years to come.”

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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