Pedestrian concerns would be amplified under a plan to encourage four villages along the length of Shelbourne Street.

Plan re-imagines Shelbourne Street as series of urban villages

In the 1960s, Saanich residents were asked if they’d like Shelbourne Street – built as a two-lane road to move farm produce downtown – converted into a four-lane street. The overwhelming concern was that the change would bring more traffic and excessive speeding.

Fast-forward 50 years and Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff can’t help but shake her head and acknowledge the residents of the past for being dead on.

“The corridor’s not working well now,” she said, citing too many cars, dangerously tapering sections, a lack of bike lanes, narrow sidewalks, public transit problems and a lack of cohesiveness along the busy four-kilometre stretch.

Enter the Shelbourne Corridor Action Plan. More than a decade in the works, Saanich is now looking to set out a vision for the street, between Feltham and North Dairy roads that can be achieved by 2030.

Public consultation last year revealed the most prominent concern among residents is traffic.

“If you build the right transportation mix, you’ll create the right community,” Brownoff said about the end goal of the action plan. “When the transit system or alternative transportation modes become more efficient, society doesn’t have as many cars.”

The way to achieve that is by creating a transportation system that improves transit service to downtown and UVic, while creating an environment that encourages bike and foot traffic.

The overall goal is to achieve four urban centres along Shelbourne – at Feltham, University Heights, Cedar Hill and Hillside – that will combine residential density with mixed commercial use and – most importantly – a sense of community.

“They need better architecture, they need to be better laid out. Strip malls aren’t conducive to creating that neighbourhoodness,” Brownoff said.

“We want to define those centres with something like an architectural theme, a colour theme, something to say to a driver ‘you’re coming into my neighbourhood.’”

Saanich’s project planner Harold Stanley said the public consultation process, which has so far included surveys, open houses and stakeholder committees, revealed a number of issues residents want to see tackled.

“We’re looking at a paradigm shift in terms of how we view our environment and how we view transportation,” he said.

“Right now, Shelbourne is mainly a major conduit for a lot of people to get towards downtown Victoria and we have to think of ways to let people know that maybe this isn’t the direction of the future.”

Among the items residents would like to see are more greenspaces, a new or relocated library, improved recreation facilities and better services for seniors.

Saanich is undergoing a transportation consultation to examine how changes to the existing system will affect density and traffic flow. The results are expected to be presented to council by June.

“We haven’t provided them any direction with regards to what we do and don’t want to see. Everything is on the table,” Stanley said.

If everything goes smoothly, Brownoff hopes council will have a draft of the action plan by December.

“Once we define what the community wants, then we know what we want to do,” she said.

“We have to make the right decisions to ensure that when something comes to council, it’ll complement and enhance the future of Shelbourne – not the same old, same old that got it to where it is now.”

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