Pedestrians make their way across a newly painted crosswalk at the intersection of Douglas and Yates streets. The art was part of a pilot poject called stART on Douglas

Douglas Street beautification project gets mixed reviews

It’s a project that left many residents either scratching their heads or excited about the increased vibrancy of the downtown.

It’s a project that left many Victoria residents either scratching their heads or excited about the increased vibrancy of the downtown core.

Earlier this year, the Downtown Victoria Business Association launched the Douglas Street Improvement Project, which included the painting of multi-coloured puzzle pieces at the intersection of Douglas and Yates streets, a bike rack, retail kiosk and the installation of a colourful wrap and animation around the two-storey office building at 1280 Douglas St.

When it was unveiled, Fran Hobbis, past chair of the business association and project lead, said it generated many comments from people both for and against the $180,000 project.

“There were lots of mixed reviews, no surprise there,” said Hobbis. “That’s perfectly okay. We heard this was a colourful, fun, cool thing, and makes the area vibrant. But we also heard it was a waste of money and that people don’t get it.”

The pilot project was meant to both enhance Douglas Street, which was once a vibrant space for people to meet, and generate discussion about how to revive the area.

Overall, the project achieved both goals and served as a learning opportunity when it comes to collaborating with multiple organizations on one project, Hobbis told Victoria city council during a meeting Thursday.

“It was definitely a labour of love, it took a lot of time,” said Hobbis, adding they ran short on money to establish a lighting canopy, which would enhance lighting in the area.

Most councillors praised the business association for their work on the project.

Coun. Marianne Alto called the project a “spectacular success,” while Margaret Lucas said she heard from many young people downtown who thought it was a cool idea. However, not all councillors were happy with the final product.

Coun. Ben Isitt believes the $60,000 the city kicked in could have been used to do more.

“When I look at value for money, I’m not sure we got it. There’s paint on the roads, paint or stickers on a building and a very nice bike shelter,” he said, adding he hopes the overall governance of the project will be improved next time with the final product coming to council for approval before it’s implemented.

“I’m just thinking of other projects of a similar nature and I’m not sure how this project crept up to the budget that was approved.”

Hobbis hopes to continue working with the city on such beautification projects around the city. She also hopes to paint more puzzle pieces at other downtown intersections.

“There’s lots of empirical evidence, when you create places where people can draw on the walls and sidewalks, you create safer, more populace areas. People want to go there. Those are things we can easily do,” she said.