Parking lots are disposable and the land isn’t needed for the new bridge, so our last council was ready to work with the new owners to secure the heritage restoration project as well as find a development and land use design that would support a planned harbour pathway piece connecting to the bridge and a more sympathetic environment for foot traffic through the property and along the adjacent road network.
Our council (I was on the last one) found early on in the development of the new bridge that the city parking lot (leased to the CRD) adjacent to Northern Junk would be surplus to our transportation needs and gave staff the green light to consider its sale to the new owners of the buildings. It made good sense to assemble the land for sale (not a giveaway), and allow a more comprehensive development to help finance the heritage project. It also made sense to provide for more of the density we are embracing through the various plans applicable to the site. Victoria will need nearly 100 new buildings the size of the Juliet (a recent condo development sitting at the northwest corner of Blanshard and Johnson), in order to meet our growth strategy and population absorption targets over the next few decades. They have to go somewhere, and many of those new buildings will fit in downtown. An amenity package that included funding of harbour pathway projects and linking pedestrians through the site made good financial sense as well as enhance the connectivity, continuity and consistency of the walking experience between the bridge, the pathway and the pedestrian corridors through the site.
There is the issue of some apparent additional “storage” for vehicles on the approaches to Johnson, another necessary element that raised new objections. It needs to be understood that the “free right” turn for traffic heading south onto Wharf is lost in the new design and turning traffic will be slowed, sometimes stopped, before they can make that right turn movement, and that will require some extra storage to absorb the impacts of the traffic calming benefits of this change. It’s a lot better for pedestrians, but it does require a different kind of capacity at the intersection.
The new council is still getting their feet wet and it’s been a revelation, as a new spectator, to see how the last election have changed the tenor and directions of discussion, even among longer serving members. Evidence again that council moves forward making decisions as a team, and not just as a collection of individuals. On this proposal, I guess there’s much work still to be done, though I think that at least most of the transportation elements are already where they should be. Here’s hoping they get it right on the rest of the project.