For the past few years, there has been a strong sense that downtown Victoria is thriving. Now we have the data to prove it.
The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) recently released our first annual Report on Downtown. We commissioned this report to create a fact-based, data-driven portrait of downtown. We used available data from several sources which included a detailed survey of our downtown business members.
Here are some of the results:
q 73% of our members give downtown a B or better as a place for their business;
q 67% of our members feel that the overall business climate has either remained stable or improved;
q 77% of our members indicated that they are experiencing growth or are intending to expand their business.
All of this speaks to a strong and vibrant downtown economy.
The data shows some of this strong economic activity is driven by the growth in residential development within the urban core.
We have 1,700 rental and condo units under construction with just under 800 of them expected to be completed in 2019. People are choosing to move and live downtown. There is now a growing community of residents who view downtown Victoria as their neighbourhood.
Tourism continues to be a driving force and there’s a growing sector of high-tech companies in downtown. This is beneficial to downtown businesses, both retail and restaurants.
Our DVBA first annual report ensures the ongoing narrative about downtown is fact based. Sometimes I hear comments like, “Businesses are struggling, many of the stores are closing up,” or “there is no parking because of the bike lanes.” Our annual report data tells us that we have a near record low retail vacancy rate of 4.1%.
As of the writing of this report, downtown has 6,800 parking spots. According to City officials, 55 were lost due to bike lanes. Using data from our annual report, I can speak factually to the issues, and dispel some of the myths that may exist about downtown.
Downtown Victoria is vibrant and alive – however, there are some challenges.
Parking availability and the cost of parking are the top two factors impacting our business members. Cleanliness and safety were also identified as concerns. These areas are where the Downtown Victoria Business Association will work with the City, property owners, our business members, and other key stakeholder groups to improve the downtown environment.
For example, by identifying real-time parking availability, we can improve the visitor experience. And, by focusing on improving the downtown streetscape, people will be able to see what a beautiful downtown we truly have.
To view the full annual report, go to dvba.ca/report.
Jeff Bray is the executive director for the Downtown Victoria Business Association.