Is Douglas Street Due for a Major Redo?

A new vision for Douglas Street could see one of Victoria’s most important and critiqued corridors get a revamp.
The vision, championed by the Downtown Victoria Business Association, proposes “a more cohesive, tight-knit, grand avenue and to restore its prominence as the main street of our downtown.”
“Douglas Street doesn’t give any sense of Victoria’s identity or create a sense of arrival,” says Gregory Damant of Cascadia Architects. His firm developed the Arriving at Douglas report for the DVBA in consultation with City of Victoria staff, B.C. Transit and DVBA members.
“We ride on the strength of the Inner Harbour. That’s certainly a point of arrival, but a lot of people arrive in the city via Douglas Street as well,” says Damant.
Reducing Vehicle Traffic Over Time
The report, which focuses on improvements to the 2km stretch of Douglas from Hillside to Belleville, envisions a corridor where public transit, cyclists and pedestrians will eventually take precedence over automobiles. Vehicle traffic would potentially be restricted to one lane in either direction.
“We’re not reducing traffic but shifting it more to bicycle and transit over time,” says Damant.
If accepted by Victoria City Council, the vision will roll out over 20 years. “This kind of time frame,” says Damant, “is long enough that it’s possible to imagine significant change but short enough to effect change you need to start on now, and it ties in with the City’s Official Community Plan.”
There is, adds Damant, potentially $180,000 for a pilot: $60,000 from the DVBA, $60,000 from the City and $60,000 from Downtown Victoria 20/20 Society.
The report has met with both excitement and caution from stakeholders (See below for commentary from members of the local business community.).
Recommendations for Improvement
Set in phases over a 20-year period, the Arriving at Douglas Street vision includes suggestions to:

  1. Improve lighting in key areas for pedestrian safety.
  2. Add strategic mid-block crossings.
  3. Install a centre cycle track and priority bus lane
  4. Create wider sidewalks and boulevards.
  5. Install a consistent lighting canopy over the street.
  6. “Urbanize” Centennial Square’s green space by removing the lawn and adding patterned pavement.
  7. Use bollards and eco-mediums to separate bike and bus lanes from vehicle traffic.

Comments from the Business Community
Al Hasham, Maximum Express Courier, Freight & Logistics and Max Furniture
“After reviewing the report which is, in essence, a “report” — and that’s all I would view of it at present— yes, it definitely should be used to stimulate discussion around the potential and need to transform Douglas Street. The key words are “stimulate discussion.” As eye-catching as this report looks, I don’t see a business plan in place for how much it’s going to cost? Who’s going to pay for the extra cost? Are there funds allocated to this transformation today? I also don’t see mention of street parking or loading zones.
As a local, family-owned and operated courier company, it is of great concern to me (and, I’m sure, to my colleagues in the business as well). Where do we park trucks to make deliveries to businesses on Douglas? If we have to park farther from Douglas (on side streets), it will take longer to make deliveries to individual stores on Douglas, increasing the cost of delivery. In turn, this increases the cost of goods sold etc.
Douglas Street is a gateway in and out of Victoria. To make it pedestrian, bike friendly etc. is great, but let’s not overlook the businesses in that area. They have to do business every day on Douglas Street — and we need a vibrant economy in Victoria to be sustainable over 20 years.”
Heidi Sherwood, Sapphire Day Spa
“I like that the DVBA has taken the initiative on this, so congratulations to them. I think [the upgrade of Douglas Street] is long overdue. Douglas is the entrance to our city and it doesn’t hit the mark right now — it’s congested, it slows people down and doesn’t fit our city’s aesthetic. I say this as someone whose business is right near Douglas and View.
People ask, “Well, what about Government St.?” and I’ve long been an advocate of making Government St. car-free at certain times of the day — but why does it have to be one street or the other? Making these two important downtown streets both bike pedestrian friendly feeds into a vision for a more vibrant city.”
Mike Kozakowski, Vibrant Victoria
“It’s exciting to see any plan for beautification or enhancement of the urban realm and what may shape our city for decades to come. But ultimately, unless we see a concerted redevelopment of the properties along Douglas Street, the effect will be diluted. [Douglas] is not the prettiest street, yet it’s the main street, and focusing on architecture is key. What many Victorians don’t realize is that we actually destroyed a tremendous amount of heritage structures in decades past, replacing them with disposable architecture that we now have so much civic pride in.
We tend to move on or support a lot of these beautification projects that involve taxpayers’ money but what we need is investment from individuals who would benefit the most — we need the property owners. They are a big part of the equation, and the other part is the leaseholders of their properties. For instance, Chapters would benefit tremendously from a friendlier atmosphere and so would Shoppers Drug Mart, which extends to their landlords, but they do not appear to be involved in the planning of this project… “