Vibrant, attractive: the future of Burnside Gorge

The City of Victoria is working on identifying a new 20-year neighbourhood plan for the Burnside Gorge area.

Vibrant, attractive and a place where people come and visit rather than drive through is how the Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Association sees the future of the area.

The City of Victoria is working on identifying a new 20-year neighbourhood plan for the Burnside Gorge area.

Burnside Gorge stretches from Chinatown to the south, to Mayfair Town Centre in the north. Blanshard Street is on the eastern side and the Gorge Waterway is to the west, running to Harriet Road and the Saanich boundary.

The area is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in terms of land use. It has a history of cement mixers, scrap metal recycling and mechanics shops and is home to roughly 6,000 residents and 1,400 businesses that employ 14,000 people.

There are also more than 92,000 vehicles that commute along Douglas Street, Burnside Road, Gorge Road and Bay Street into the downtown core a day.

“This is a really great opportunity for residents of the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood to help shape the future of what the community looks like,” said Suzanne Cole, executive director of the Burnside Gorge Community Association. “What kind of amenities do we want, where do we want to build up residential neighbourhoods, where’s our village hub, how do we create this community for the businesses and residents that exist here?”

Tracy James, vice chair of the board of directors and member of the land use committee with the Burnside Gorge Community Association, hopes a new plan will revitalize the area and transform it from a place people drive through to a vibrant, attractive neighbourhood.

The association’s priorities include creating better connectivity within the neighbourhood; increasing the amount of green space and parks available to residents; creating a neighbourhood village that will become the centre; and increasing the number of shops and services in the area, such as grocery stores.

“It’s a complex planning exercise and for us, the important part is to really think of the neighbourhood as a whole . . . because its diversity is its strength,” said James, who has lived in the area for the past 10 years.

“It’s really important to the neighbourhood that we have the kinds of amenities, like a grocery store and arts and culture facilities, that make for a little mini neighbourhood that people want to come to get the things that they need. That’s a huge priority for us.”

The city started community input last spring. Phase two is about narrowing down the vision and bringing concrete options on how to move forward. Earlier this week, there were two public consultations.

Jonathan Tinney, director of sustainable planning and community development with the city, said they have received thoughtful commentary on the plans so far.

“The intent of the plan is to build on what’s there now and the strength of the community, but to ultimately work towards a vision,” he said. “It’s not the city’s vision, it’s the vision that the community has . . . and we’re all working towards it together.”

After consultation, staff will provide a series of design charettes in February followed by another round of consultations.

Burnside Gorge is the first of 10 new neighbourhood plans that will be created for Victoria in the next four years.

New plans for Fairfield, Gonzales and Victoria West are set to begin in March. Next year, the city will update plans for Fernwood, Jubilee, North Park, Rockland and the Fort Street Corridor, while James Bay, Hillside-Quadra and Oaklands plans will be updated in 2018.

The last of three public consultations this week will be on Saturday, Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Burnside Gorge Community Centre (471 Cecelia Rd.)