Monday, January 31, 2011

Speed Street housing development

Victoria developer Brian Martin is proposing building 224 units in two towers on Speed Street with close to half being available for low income housing.

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I am happy to see a proposal like this being made for Speed Street.  Frankly it has been more or less a slum for some years and has not been a decent place to live.   With the development of  a new building on the north side of the street, a change has been underway.  The development will be accessible from Speed and Frances Streets.

The height is much taller than anything in the area and it is not in keeping with the light industrial in the area.   That said, if you are going to add people to the area doing something with some density makes sense.

224 units will add between 400 and 600 people into the area as new residents.  More people in the area will mean that businesses catering to retail shopping will benefit.   Density like this compare very favourably to the alternatives, to house this number of people in a suburban neighbourhood you would need about 30 acres of land.  

There will also be about 300 new cars in the area because of the development.  This is an issue because of access to Douglas Street.   Having been to houses on Speed Street in the past, it is not the easiest street to get to in peak times.   With the access to Francis Street, there are other options to get out but there are issues with getting onto either Douglas or Burnside.    The traffic issues would only further compound the issues created by the Starbucks at Alpha and Douglas, the drive through there has added to traffic congestion on Douglas.   The project is likely to add 200 more vehicle trips in the area in peak hours.   This is about two cars per minute.

I like the idea of the project, but it has to be done in the context of a vision for the whole Douglas Street corridor.   A one off project like this may or may not fit with the best way to redevelop the corridor.   There are some large pieces of land in the area that are vacant or very much underused at the moment.   Their is no planning for what should happen with them and their redevelopment is connected to where this project on Speed Street is the right thing to do.

Long term I believe that the Douglas Street Corridor should become the core of the City - that office and retail, along with high density residential, be the vision for the corridor.   Ideally a future that sees an end to the car dealerships.
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