At least $245,000 will go toward revitalization projects in downtown Victoria that will aim to entice people through events or site improvements such as more green space.
The particulars are still up in the air but the idea is to use the funds to run events this summer, said Coun. Krista Loughton, who spurred the funding with an approved council motion on April 6. City staff will now consult with business groups, residents and local First Nations to iron out plans.
‘The whole idea is to attract more people into the core,” Loughton said in an interview. “I would love to see fun, family-friendly events for everyone to enjoy from May long weekend to Labour Day.
Loughton wants the additional funds to support attractions involving the arts, music or sports – pitching the idea of closing down some downtown blocks for a day to host things like community road hockey or basketball games.
Council approved adding $500,000 to the city’s budget, with $220,000 going toward continuing a late-night program that sees police foot patrols in the entertainment district on weekends and for a new pilot program. Whatever amount isn’t used for those two programs will go into the downtown projects.
“Downtown needs our immediate attention and at council, we know we can’t do it all but we must act on what we can do,” Loughton said. “Downtown needs to be a vibrant place that’s full of vitality for residents and visitors alike.”
The move brings this year’s tax increase from about 6 to 6.3 per cent, which staff said equates to about $176 for an average household.
Councillors disagreed over the source of the money, as some said safety was worth using contingency funding and others said residents would be willing to pay for the things they’re asking the city to do.
Loughton said the funding will help get more people and eyes downtown, which she hopes feeds into an overall public safety strategy. Her motion also included $35,000 for a two-month foot patrol pilot as she hopes the combination of bustling streets and more officers walking the beat will deter people from breaking windows, spray painting graffiti and stealing from retail stores.
Some of those concerns are out of council’s lane as senior governments are discussing how to address a small group of repeat offenders, Loughton said.
At the April 6 meeting, Coun. Susan Kim noted increased police visibility can be a concern for some in the BIPOC (Black Indigenous and Person of Colour) community and other marginalized groups.
Loughton said the patrol pilot will be reviewed after its end date, but she’d like to see the expansion of programs where police work alongside health-care workers for mental health calls and with those who have a lived experience with homelessness.
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