Local businesses say a lack of parking downtown is forcing customers to go elsewhere and are calling on the City of Victoria to take action.
Sasha Appleton, soon-to-be-owner of The Cobbler on View Street, said many customers rely on finding a spot in the View Street parkade when coming to her store, but by the time they come down, they are often full by early morning.
Appleton first began to notice there were lineups and staff were having difficulties getting into the parkade, which is across the street from The Cobbler, about a year ago. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse.
“We’ve spent years building up a business and the parking situation is driving our customers away because they’re going to places with more convenient parking,” she said. “We get the feeling the city isn’t grasping the importance of having our stores easily accessible in terms of parking.”
Recently, Appleton had a customer who wanted to purchase a specific item from the store, but couldn’t find a place to park in the View Street parkade and went home.
Michele Byrne, co-owner of the Dutch Bakery on Fort Street, said the lack of parking, both on the street and in parkades, is also impacting them.
“It’s tough running a downtown business that is reliant on people coming in to town. The city parkades, there’s not enough parking spots. There’s so many workers in town, that by the time they get here, all the parkades are full,” Byrne said, adding she gets many requests from customers to pick up their goods as soon as the bakery opens its doors at 7:30 a.m.
Robinson’s Outdoor Store owner Gayle Robinson also raised concerns, noting in order for local businesses to thrive, they need easy parking.
The businesses are calling on the city to invest in another city parkade. Appleton floated the idea of having the city offer incentives or tax breaks to developers to create public parking.
The City of Victoria operates five parkades on Yates, Broughton, Fisgard, Johnson and View streets, offering 1,856 parking spaces, which tend to fill up by 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and begin clearing out between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., according to an email from the city.
In addition, the city also has three surface parking lots and 1,900 parking spaces downtown.
According to a staff report earlier this year, all parkades in the city are seeing increased use, which is being exacerbated by the loss of three downtown surface parking lots that have been taken over by development, as well as the city’s push to encourage more people to use the parkades to free up on-street spaces.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the city is aware of the issue, but noted the downtown core is in a transition phase, with new developments and bike lanes being built, so less people will need to drive, which will free up more parking in the future.
“Some of the reasons for less parking downtown is because former surface parking lots are being turned into residences. In a sense, that’s great because there are going to be more people living downtown who don’t need to drive because they’re already here. But it adds to the challenge,” Helps said, adding the city, along with the Downtown Victoria Business Association, are working collaboratively on new and inventive plans as they fill the gap between old and new needs, including meeting with private parking companies to discuss options moving forward.