Parking lots along Victoria’s Inner Harbour have puzzled visitors for decades, the enviable waterfront land paved and left undeveloped by council after council.
But now, the city could finally be taking action with revitalization plans for three key sites: Ship Point, lower Wharf Street and the Belleville terminal (see map).
Tom Mitchell, manager and boat captain at B.C. Whale Tours near the lower Wharf Street parking lot, said the space is ideal for a public market.
“You’ve got the little market in the summer in Bastion Square, but if you had it down here, you could bring in so many more vendors and farmers,” he said.
Turning the space into a park is a bad idea, he said, as it’s removed from the street and would be difficult to police at night.
“I’d love to see a ferris wheel,” said Mitchell’s co-worker, Charlotte Blundell. “Food trucks should be brought down here, too.”
Steve Jackson has been operating a waterfront patio and small restaurant, Lido Bistro, beside the lower Wharf Street parking lot, for the past five years.
He said tourists regularly comment how the area is the “most expensive parking lot in the world” for its land value.
“There’s just so much under-utilized space there,” Jackson said. “Even if they put in underground parking, you’d still have at least 25 feet to put in buildings before you came up to street level.”
Jackson said he’d love to see the city install green space on the roof of any new building and extend the public realm from Bastion Square outwards towards the Inner Harbour.
“Obviously, you’ve got to pay the bills, so they need some sort of retail scenario,” he said. “Parking is still an issue down here, but like any other parkade, why can’t it be covered?”
A look back at the Inner Harbour in 1907 (jump to 1:45 for the corner of Government and Humboldt):
Up in Bastion Square, manager Louise Olsen looks out at the water view from Paradiso Di Stelle, a gelateria and cafe.
“We’re completely dependent on tourists, and they’re drawn up here by the view,” she said. “As long as we don’t lose our view, we’re happy.”
The city launches its Harbour Dialogue open house on May 9, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Ship Point. City staff will be on hand to discuss project information and accept ideas for the three sites. Representatives from Tourism Victoria, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Royal BC Museum will also be available.
Two-hour ideas forums will also be held on May 10 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Victoria Conference Centre. Preregistration is required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250-360-0286.
For more information, visit victoria.ca/harbourdialogue.