Thursday, December 06, 2012

Douglas Street from Hillside to Burnside - a dead streetscape

Getting from my home to downtown means I often drive the stretch of Douglas between the end of Burnside to the intersection with Hillside/Gorge.   This 420 metre stretch of Douglas is one of the deadest streets in this region.

Douglas in this area is very wide, about 24 to 25 metres wide.   The width makes distance between the two sides of the street feel very far apart.   The very wide street with wide lanes means even though the distance between the lights is not far, the traffic often moves at close to 70 kmh.  

On the westside there is the BC Transit yard which is lower than Douglas which means you have a narrow sidewalk along the edge of a busy street and a drop off on the the other.   This property makes for an unpleasant walk and that reduces the walkablity of the area.  It also means the sidewalk is very exposed and in the rain you get very wet along here.

On the eastside there are some car dealerships and the Brick which is closing, right?    The best place for car dealerships is in automall.  When they are located along the sides of urban streets they suck up large amounts of space for parked cars but not a parking lot.   A parking lot is at least alive with constant activity and is a defacto public space to walk through.   The sea of cars at a car dealership are completely static and without people.  They also tend to be a mass of uniformly similar vehicles.

I do not have an easy answer on how to fix this area because of the properties are privately owned.  The one property that could in theory be changed would be the BC Transit property.  

What if the City of Victoria allowed BC Transit to develop a building over top the eastern third of their property?  A five to six story office building with ground floor retail over top of the current bus parking would make for a major change on this part of the street.   You can have some street level parking off of Gabally and Douglas for the building.  

With say 25,000 square feet of ground floor retail and then 100,000 to 150,000 square feet of office space, you would add a lot more people to the area on a regular basis.   The new building would allow the pedestrians on the westside of Douglas a much more pleasant experience and likely be offered some coffeeshops or retail locations to go to.

The offices would be located  next to a huge number of bus routes.   It would be a very easy location to commute to by bus.

Doing this would also be one more shift of taking Douglas from what it is now to something that is more of a commercial core area to the city.   With redevelopments at Speed and Douglas as well as Finlayson and Douglas at various stages of moving forward, adding one further development south would help shift how everyone sees Douglas Street.

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