At least $245,000 will go toward revitalization projects in downtown Victoria aimed at attracting people through events or site improvements such as more green space.
Details are still up in the air, Coun said, but the idea is to use the funds to hold events this summer. Krista Loughton stimulated the funding through a parliamentary motion approved on April 6. City staff will now consult with business groups, residents and local First Nations to finalize plans.
“The whole idea is to get more people into the core,” Lawton said in an interview. “I’d love to see fun, family-friendly activities for everyone from the May long weekend through Labor Day.
Lawton wants additional funding to support attractions involving the arts, music or sports — floated the idea of closing some downtown blocks for a day to host events like community road hockey or basketball games.
The City Council approved a $500,000 increase to the city budget, including $220,000 to continue a late-night program in which police patrol the recreation district on foot on weekends, as well as a new pilot program. Unused amounts from these two projects will be used for downtown projects.
“The city center needs our immediate attention and in council we know we can’t do it all but we have to do what we can,” Lawton said. “The city center needs to be a vibrant place, vibrant for residents and visitors alike.”
The move increases this year’s tax increase from about 6% to 6.3%, which staff say equates to about $176 for the average household.
Councilors were divided on where the funding would come from, as some said safety was worth using emergency funds, while others said residents were willing to pay for what they asked the city to do.
Loughton said the funding will help bring more people and attention to downtown, which she hopes will be part of an overall public safety strategy. Her motion also includes $35,000 for a two-month foot patrol pilot, as she hopes the combination of bustling streets and more officers on patrol will stop people breaking windows, spraying graffiti and stealing from retail stores.
Loughton said some of those concerns were beyond the scope of the committee as senior government was discussing how to tackle a small group of repeat offenders.
At the April 6 meeting, Coun. Susan Kim noted that increased police visibility may be a concern for some in the BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) community and other marginalized groups.
Lawton said the patrol pilot will be reviewed after its end date, but she would like to see an expansion of programs where police work with paramedics in mental health counseling and with those who have experienced homelessness.
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