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Success of Broad Street closure prompts more permanent version in Victoria

Council votes to keep 1000-block for pedestrians through 2021, monitor it for 2022
Lights twinkle downtown over the 1000 block of Broad Street, which was closed to traffic, with seating areas and a stage added in 2020, to allow for physical distancing and also to create a walkable environment. It was one of the placemaking initiatives that received money from the City of Victoria’s My Great Neighbourhood grant program. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Responding to a petition from eight area businesses to permanently pedestrianize the 1000-block of Broad Street, city council voted recently to keep the block closed to vehicle traffic through 2021.

Part of the successful motion included calls for city staff to include the ongoing pedestrianization of the block on their 2022 work plans, and to have investments in animation and infrastructure be part of future capital planning and budget discussions.

The closure of Broad Street to traffic between Fort and Broughton streets was initiated as part of Build Back Victoria, which found creative ways to support small businesses during the early stages of the pandemic last spring. It included the addition of lighting, benches, a planter and little free library, and live outdoor music was a frequent occurrence in 2020.

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Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who co-sponsored the motion along with Mayor Lisa Helps, called a more permanent closure a “great opportunity to continue to build on that success and provide some predictability to the businesses and the residents of downtown and everyone who loves to come and enjoy this great little section of Broad Street.”

Several around the table at the March 18 meeting appreciated that the initiative was driven by businesses. While the motion passed unanimously, Couns. Marianne Alto and Stephen Andrew brought up concerns over access to the Yarrow Building, which spans the block and services many people with disabilities, seniors and those with mobility issues.

Andrew suggested that “courtesy parking” could be created on Fort Street for people in these categories who need to be close to their destination.

City transportation manager Philip Bellefontaine noted that many parking options are available nearby. The second point in the motion, to ensure “access to accessible parking, adequate loading zones, and continued time-limited access for deliveries to service local businesses,” would help to mitigate any such issues that arose.

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