The third urban village proposed will be located at Catherine/Edward Streets, as the Oceanic Market has become a community hub over the years.  Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS

The third urban village proposed will be located at Catherine/Edward Streets, as the Oceanic Market has become a community hub over the years. Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS

UPDATED: Response to new Vic West draft plan mixed

Plan proposes new urban village, densification, and public food production

The City of Victoria is seeking feedback on the new draft of the Victoria West Neighbourhood Plan – which includes a new urban village, densification, and community gardens – to focus development and planning for the next 25 years.

So far, that feedback has been mixed.

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Changes to urban villages – upgrading existing ones, and creating a new one at Catherine and Edward streets – form a significant part of the plan, as does increasing housing stock around them. The city conducted a series of open houses this month on the draft plan that concluded earlier this week.

Justine Semmens, president of the Victoria West Community Association, said she’s curious to see how the plan unfolds, but she’s heard some concerns from the community.

“While they don’t resist the idea of densification, they are concerned about what that will do to the area that has a lot of heritage homes,” she said, referring to streets like Skinner, with several early 20th century homes, that may be targeted for densification. “There are some people who would just like [some] clarification.”

Proposals in the draft plan include increasing available housing stock and businesses, allowing legal suites in existing homes, and improvements to bike and pedestrian trails, and parks. The plan also calls for increased access to neighbourhood food, including adding edible landscaping to public greens along Catherine and Wilson streets, community orchards at Hereward and Triangle Parks, and requiring new community gardens at Tyee Co-op, Pioneer Co-op and Bayview Lands.

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On the urban village proposed for Catherine/Edward streets, Semmens said it makes sense as the neighbourhood has “organically” formed a community around Oceanic Market.

“If you talk to residents who’ve lived in Vic West their entire lives, they remember their parents shopping there 20 years ago; it’s been a focal point, a centre for the community,” she said. The market was recently purchased by a local resident who is turning the business into a high-end market.

“It’s not that there’s nothing there right now … there’s a kernel that just needs to be cared for and nurtured. It’s been a gathering point for a long time,” Semmens said.

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Changes are also proposed for the existing Craigflower and Westside Villages.

The draft plan would see densification focused around these areas. Three- or four-storey apartment buildings along Craigflower Road and Skinner Street, heritage house conversions, townhomes, and “houseplexes” are some options.

For Westside Village, there could be buildings up to six-storeys for housing and business,with street-facing shopfronts.

Semmens said she’d also like to see more in the plan about traffic calming on side streets, including Dominion and Hereward roads, and Front, Catherine and Rothwell streets, which commuters are using more as thoroughfares.

“Talking to people that live on those streets – and I’ll be honest, I live on one of those streets – people are seeing more traffic,” she said.

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The city is accepting feedback on the plan through next week, including an online survey until Sept. 25.

More information on the plan can be found on the city’s Victoria West Neighbourhood Plan website.