The patios in the 1300-block of Gladstone Avenue serve as a pilot program as Victoria explores permanently allowing street and sidewalk dining spaces. (Courtesy Build Back Victoria)

The patios in the 1300-block of Gladstone Avenue serve as a pilot program as Victoria explores permanently allowing street and sidewalk dining spaces. (Courtesy Build Back Victoria)

Build Back Victoria programs add vibrancy to the city

Supporting local businesses leads to trial runs for City of Victoria

More than 100 new patios draw residents and visitors, thanks to the city’s Build Back Victoria program.

Launched June 8, 2020, the program was created to support businesses during the reopening and recovery phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Administered through the City of Victoria business hub, Build Back Victoria provided several temporary initiatives to allow businesses to create space on sidewalks, streets, parking spaces and in plazas and parks to expand their footprint to safely conduct commercial activities.

While the patios may be the most recognized aspect of the program, it also allowed other out-of-the-box activities such as conducting fitness classes in city parks and shifting loading zones to drive-thru or curbside pickup, said Quinn Anglin, the hub’s business ambassador.

Another big change adding to the streetscape is greater accessibility of mobile vendors.

Food trucks, specifically, were limited to special events and private property prior to the program.

“The city designated 14 different spaces on city property that these mobile vendors could operate at,” Anglin said. “We ask them to give their top three locations and they’ve been almost always been able to get their top two.”

READ ALSO: Permanent street-patio pilot in Fernwood gets go-ahead from Victoria

Approved applications from businesses covered flex spaces ranging from simple, with pylons and chairs out for a day, to the more elaborate and thought-out designs that remain. Various plans include partial or full street closures.

In Fernwood, the pandemic-sprung patios in the 1300-block of Gladstone Avenue are serving as a pilot program, as the city explores the idea of permanently allowing the street- and sidewalk-dining spaces.

Similarly, designs and learning from Build Back Victoria will help inform future concepts and pilot streetscape treatments on Government Street, which currently has a downtown portion closed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Victoria had a refresh project in the works for the street before the pandemic hit.

“I think we’ll also see some of the changes to Government Street more permanently going forward,” Anglin said.

RELATED STORY: Downtown Victoria timed closure of Government Street begins

According to a survey of residents, businesses and visitors aged 12 and up, the changes around town were viewed positively, she added. “It was a really robust, well-received survey I think and we got a really great feedback.”

Among 787 responses, 80.2 per cent liked Build Back Victoria, including 69.5 per cent of business owners. The survey also yielded 8,729 comments with the most common remark that the city now feels more European and lively.

Most indicated they’d like to see it continue and are enjoying the extra space that also provided safety from vehicles and added vibrancy to the city.

“We all felt that way, but it was really nice to see that the sentiment was shared. And it was across different demographics and neighbourhoods,” Anglin said.

Located in city hall, the business hub is the first point of contact for startups, relocations, expansions, investors, property owners, leasing agents and others interested in creating prosperity in Victoria. The hub partners with agencies such as the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Victoria Business Association, to help people through the process.

To contact the hub call 250-361-0629 or email bizhub@victoria.ca.

For more stories from our annual Best of the City publication, click here. You can also find the special publication online here.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca


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Best of the CityCity of VictoriaCOVID-19