Bridging opportunity

The new Johnson Street bridge opens up new land and unwelcome debate

The fate of half a hectare

As the city straightens out the s-curve entrance to Vic West, a large chunk of prime municipal land will open up.

It’s a 52,000-square-foot bonus, resulting from the  realignment of a new Johnson Street Bridge. It’s also an opportunity to revisit the gateway to Vic West

Any option would be an improvement: currently pedestrians and cyclists are greeted by poorly-lit sidewalks. Fenced lots nearby lend few ears and eyes.

“The community would like to have that as park area, rather than commercial area,” said community association president Nan Judd. “Something not just our Vic West community can enjoy but the whole community.”

Mayor Dean Fortin also wants no uncertainty on the issue.

Green space, however, is not the only option.

Selling all, or a portion of the land is still possible.

Revenue from the sale, plus annual property taxes, could offset some of the debt incurred in building the $77-million bridge. (The larger, but nearest neighbour, the Delta Ocean Pointe, pays over half  a million in property taxes).

Until now, however, the issue has been left undebated.

“This was something that has not had any type of discussion that I can recall at the table,” said project director, Mike Lai at a council meeting Thursday.

“It needs to be discussed,” said Coun. Geoff Young. There are a whole range of options, he said, pointing out the property need not be considered as a single parcel.

“I think it would be totally reasonable for us to get a report back from staff … before we make a decision in principle on an entire chunk of land which we don’t even know at this point … how much it’s worth.”

A land sale could offer “more of an urban connection between the Songhees and the downtown,” Young said. “To me, what you want is some kind of animation.”

What do you think?

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