That’s how many city councillors are looking at the roughly $6.8-million improvements to areas around the new Johnson Street Bridge.
Designs for the public realm, which are not included in the bridge’s current $105-million budget, include improvements to increase connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, and views of the harbour, as well as improved park and plaza space for residents and tourists.
“People will be driving their cars down it (the Johnson Street Bridge), but 50 per cent of the bridge deck is dedicated to pedestrian and cyclist traffic,” Mayor Lisa Helps said during a meeting Thursday. “We need to design the landscape to accommodate people first. I’m very excited about this.”
But those plans will have to wait until the city has more money, councillors agreed.
Work is proposed to be completed in four areas around the Johnson Street Bridge. The intersection at Esquimalt and Harbour road will include slope enhancement through rock terraces and tree plantings, stone wall and lighting and widened corner sidewalk paving.
The Northern Junk Plaza at 1314-1318 Wharf Street includes an accessible pedestrian pathway, terraced steps that offer site circulation and opportunities for seating, flexible outdoor gathering space, and native plantings. There is also the opportunity for the city’s artist and indigenous artist in residence to create a piece of public art with a budget of $250,000.
The largest improvements will be done to the former S-Curve lands in Vic West at the junction of the E&N Trail, Galloping Goose and West Song walkway.
Proposed designs for the roughly 6,000 square metres of land are designed to take advantage of the Inner Harbour, and include stepped seating, landscaped terraces, accessible pathways, and a viewing plaza with steps down to the water.
Improvements to Triangle Green and the Esquimalt and Harbour roads intersections will be completed first, followed by changes to the former S-Curve lands and the Northern Junk Plaza.
Councillors Pamela Madoff and Ben Isitt were reluctant to support the improvements and expressed concern with the amount of pavement around some areas of the bridge, instead of useable green space for the public.
“Some things may be set literally in pavement now … it’s how you move through those public spaces we have to give attention to,” Madoff said. “It’s what we’re going to be known for. It’s not the bridge, it’s how we invite them (the public) to move through the city in a way they haven’t been able to do before.”
Currently, a vertical fit up of the bridge is being done in China to ensure all the pieces fit together. The steel for the bridge is expected to arrive in Victoria in the coming months, with it open to traffic by the end of the year.