Victoria mini-park to be built in parking spots on Fort Street

Pedestrians, not cars will soon be able to park themselves in a couple of Fort Street parking stalls.

Victoria city council has given the green light to transforming two parking stalls in the 700-block of Fort into what’s being called a parklet on a one-year trial basis.

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A deck will be built in the street parking spaces fronting the Dutch Bakery and the Dots Store at 718 and 724 Fort St., and include individual and bench seating, table space and some landscaping at either end.

“It’s one that says we’re trying to make it more pedestrian-friendly. The businesses actually want to try it, so I’m open to it,” Coun. Chris Coleman said.

If it’s successful, city council is bound to receive applications for other parklets in other areas, Coleman said.

“What we tend to do in this town is we wait for somebody to try something. When it’s deemed as a success, then everybody else wants it.”

The project is an initiative of the Fort Street Business Association’s Fabulous Fort campaign and endorsed by the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

Because the new deck will be available for use by the public and not any specific businesses, council has agreed to exempt the project from street-occupancy fees, normally about $40 a day, for the one-year trial.

A single on-street parking space on Fort Street generates about $25 a day. Two parking spaces out of commission for 12 months will translate into about $15,000 in lost revenue.

Organizers say the parklet was deliberately located on the sunny side of the street near multiple cafés and restaurants.

Coun. Ben Isitt wondered whether city staff should be looking at a process for evaluating future applications, including the possibility of a charge for the space, given the potential benefit to some businesses.

“I think, ultimately, to put this program on a sustainable financial footing, I think replacing the lost revenue for the parking either with a dollar figure for the parking, or potentially what our staff would come up with as a sidewalk café permit, is probably something we want to look at,” Isitt said.

Cascadia Architects assisted in the design, while Abstract Developments has donated labour to build the deck and Home Lumber is donating the framing material at cost.

While it’s a first for Victoria, Vancouver has a program to encourage parklets and about 50 are in use in San Francisco.

The Fort Street Business Association recently repurposed a couple of old parking meters as kindness meters designed to collect money for homeless people.

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