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Painting it black in downtown Victoria

Initiative part of city’s new public realm plan
Victoria’s downtown public realm plan includes the development of new lighting for Douglas Street, similar to the models above, and painting many frontage elements black. Courtesy City of Victoria

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps can’t wait to paint the town black – literally. Lights and street furniture such as benches, many of which range in colour, will be painted black to create a more timeless and cohesive look throughout the downtown core.

“I sincerely can’t wait to see everything painted black except for Chinatown,” Helps said. “Let’s get out those black paint cans and paint brushes.”

The initiative is part of the city’s downtown public realm plan to make frontage improvements and was given initial approval by councillors.

Over the past several years, a number of similar improvements have taken place along Government, Broad and Douglas streets, each with their own colour palette, type of street furniture and paving materials. However, that has resulted in a “busy, inconsistent and sometimes cluttered public realm,” which has been costly to maintain, according to a staff report brought forward at last week’s committee of the whole meeting.

The new plan establishes a renewed vision, design framework and standards that aim to ensure a walkable, timeless and unified look, including a detailed catalogue of furnishings, materials, colours and specifications to guide future improvements.

It aims to install cluster lights in Old Town and the Inner Harbour and proposes a new ‘modern heritage’ style light for Newtown – a section east of Douglas Street – and Rock Bay.

Lights and street furnishings in Chinatown will remain the traditional red colour to set the area apart from the downtown.

“I’ll be happy to stroll down a Douglas Street with no cars … and get on a bus, rapid transit or train and make my way to Goldstream for a hike for a day,” Helps said. “It (the plan) gestures towards how we want the city to look all those years from now.”

Coun. Margaret Lucas called the plan “exciting” and said it sets out a strong vision for what the downtown will look like in the coming years.

The implementation of the plan, including updating the streetscape furnishings, materials and repainting, will occur gradually as part of improvements undertaken for new developments, through the city’s regular maintenance and replacement program, or capital plan projects.

The plan replaces the city’s downtown beautification strategy.