A boat dock, a waterfront ramp and an urban beach could be included in the City of Victoria’s plans to create new public spaces around the new Johnson Street Bridge.
The city presented design concepts of what the areas surrounding the new bridge on both the downtown Victoria and Victoria West sides could look like during a workshop last week, in which roughly 50 people were in attendance.
For the south east plaza by the downtown waterfront, there were two different concepts presented for the roughly 1,200 square metres of space, which included connections from Wharf Street to the new bridge and the future David Foster Harbour Pathway, and creating more useable plaza space for people, such as a waterfront ramp.
On the west side of the bridge near Vic West, concepts included improved access along the shoreline, including a boat or kayak dock, a small urban beach, as well as places to sit and view the harbour or waterfront programming, such as festivals or fireworks, in the 5,200-square metre space. Terraced seating was also an option and picnicking areas.
Concepts were also presented for the north east plaza beside the Janion building, however the size of the plaza is limited, with public desire for outdoor patio or cafe seating.
“It’s going to add a substantial amount of really alive and public gathering space to the downtown. The most exciting piece to me is that many of the ideas that will be implemented were generated from the public, from downtown residents, and downtown businesses,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, adding they’ve heard from many residents that they need more public spaces.
“They need more public green spaces, they need more places to gather and as our population downtown increases . . . those pubic gathering spaces are going to be even more important.”
Public consultation for the sites began last year when the city hosted a design workshop involving various stakeholder groups.
Jonathon Tinney, director of sustainable planning and community development with the city, said once the city removes the old bridge, it creates new publicly-owned space right by the waterfront.
“It gives us an opportunity to create new waterfront space,” said Tinney. “We want to make sure we’re doing it right and creating spaces that people want to spend time in and engage with…hopefully we get a plan that meets everyone’s hopes and dreams.”
Up next, staff will compile feedback from the workshop on the different concepts. A consultant will then complete the design development work so staff can begin estimating the overall cost and timeline of the project to bring to council in the next few months.
The controversial Johnson Street Bridge project is expected to be open to traffic by the end of December 2017, with the entire project completed by March 31, 2018. The total project cost is roughly $105 million, not including the price of the public realm spaces.
However, the cost of the public realm spaces will be phased and included in the city’s capital budget over the coming years and shouldn’t be associated with the total cost of the bridge, Helps added.
“It’s more public realm improvements to downtown. The bridge will be finished and we could leave it looking like crap around there, but why would we do that? We’re a capital city and we have a growing downtown residential population and the downtown residential population will increase the tax base and these are the exact things we should be doing with tax dollars — improving the public realm.”