David Witty

Colwood needs to create identity: planning expert

Ideas offered for how to make city successful and unique

Colwood has a tremendous opportunity to reshape its future in the coming years, and open discussion is a great start on the road to becoming a successful city.

That’s what David Witty, provost and vice-president academic at Vancouver Island University, told a sizeable gathering of residents last week. His talk was part of the City’s ongoing public engagement efforts as it prepares to update its Official Community Plan.

Witty excitedly commended the planning that went into the roads around Royal Bay secondary, where the talk took place, pointing out the multiple ways they move people – on foot, by car and by bicycle.

“If you get streets right, you are well on your way,” he said.

That same enthusiasm wasn’t felt for much of the Old Island Highway, where stretches of the road are without sidewalks, and certain areas are plagued by large parking lots set back from the road.

The latter is an issue that Witty came back to on numerous occasions as he pointed out the pitfalls of strip malls and parking lots next to main arterial roads. “Land is really valuable and you think about (parking lots) and it’s really a waste,” he said.

He used examples from multiple European centres, as well as Canadian cities such as Winnipeg and West Vancouver, as ways to create gathering places and town centres that work towards giving a city an identity.

“Place-making is important for a whole of bunch of reasons,” he said, noting that it not only serves identity purposes, “it has fundamental bearing on quality of life.”

Liveable cities with great infrastructure, public green spaces and inner city residential areas can contribute to economic success, he added, and attract professionals for whom it’s important to live where there is high quality of life.

“My hypothesis is this: you, Colwood, are competing with other cities for future residents and workers,” he said.

With that, he urged the city to find a central place that would give Colwood an identity.

“I say this respectfully … (you need) a centre or place where people go to do a variety of things; to shop, to eat, to recreate, to sit, to look at the ocean, to reflect.”

He also pointed to Langford – a former client of his – and the creation of its own town over the past couple decades as an example of how a city can reshape itself.

“I took my students a week and a half ago to take a look … is it perfect? It’s not perfect, but they’ve done some really good things,” Witty said, while also commenting on some of the aesthetically pleasing design concepts and the mixed use of space along Goldstream Avenue.

Later, Witty told the Gazette that variety in development is needed in order to make a city unique, and that uniform housing stock and commercial development isn’t the way to create a proper identity.

“If you’re in a helicopter and you got dropped off in the middle of Colwood, made some notes, then got back in the helicopter and got dropped off in a suburb outside of Akron, Ohio … your notes would basically say the same thing in describing the same place,” he said.

The Royal Bay development will be a key in creating that identity, he said, adding that a varied residential and commercial neighbourhood there will be important in creating a unique seaside community.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Stolen power tools, laptops, comic books, artwork recovered in vacant Langford home

West Shore RCMP look to reunite stolen property with rightful owners

First council candidate is missing

RCMP asks that anyone with information contact them immediately

Large scale flood forces Saanich rec centre to close

Extent of the damage unknown at this point

Ringette returns to Greater Victoria

Locals are forming a new ringette association after going more than decade without

Belmont grad captures bronze on the beach

Gracie May and Sara Ostojic win bronze at U-18 National Beach Volleyball Tournament

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies to decrease electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Retired Vancouver Island teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Patrick Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Most Read