Submitted by Marg Gardiner and Don Lindsay

On January 9,2017, the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) sponsored a Douglas Street Design Charrette. The purpose of the charrette was to explore opportunities for altering the section of Douglas Street between Mile 0 at Dallas Road and Belleville Street, and to connect with the work of an earlier charrette which examined Douglas Street between Hillside and Belleville Streets. This southern stretch of Douglas Street is not only a critical transportation artery for the residents of James Bay, but also the street upon which impressions of our city are created for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Victoria every year.

                                                                                              Photo by Ken Kelly

Hosted by the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) thirty-one interested participants, including residents, landlords, business owners, and City and BC Transit staff, gathered for discussions led by the Cascadia Architects team. The diverse group, primarily James Bay residents, included representatives from the Glenshiel, the "Q", Amica on Douglas, 200 Douglas, and a South Park School parent. Three present are involved with "tourism." A recognized James Bay cycling advocate participated while two others invited from Walk-on could not attend. A person, recently moved to Douglas Street at Superior, walked in after reading about the charrette, and actively participated. Several people who were unable to attend submitted comments (the Beacon Drive-in, the horse & carriage industry, and a heritage advocate). The age range of attendees was from about 30 to 85 years of age, with 1/3 of participants under 40 years of age.

Working groups within the charrette determined a number of givens, including the importance of maintaining the park environment with emphasis on the Heron nesting area adjacent to Douglas, the importance of the street as a transportation artery, and the importance of the access to Circle Drive off Douglas at Simcoe Street as one of the primary entranceways to the park for both vehicles and pedestrians.

Following a break and a visual presentation, reformed working groups developed a brainstorm of suggestions to enhance walkability and to improve the visual and physical connection of residential James Bay to Beacon Hill Park. Suggestions included softening the park edge while improving pedestrian access between the neighbourhood and the Park, making the experience more friendly to pedestrians. Both ends of the park at Douglas were seen as a bit of a let-down to visitors, with no welcome to indicate the extent or nature of the park. Welcoming portals should be a major component of any future plan.

There was also a suggestion to expand green space within the park boundary, something that has rarely happened in Beacon Hill Park since its inception. 

The Douglas Visioning project is a key component of a multi-pronged program to improve the access to our streets within and connecting to James Bay. The program is focused on making our streets more inviting and safer for all users with a focus on residents and visitors. 

Other ‘prongs’ include the on-going monitoring, and analysis of traffic volumes and speed, advocating for crosswalks in identified key areas, and more recently, through the creation of an Active Transportation committee, examining how residents and employees use James Bay streets.

Cascadia Architects will be submitting a report to the JBNA in the next several months, recommending short term and long term development ideas for Douglas Street. While some of the suggestions can be achieved with little outlay, many will require extensive consultation and development.

Sponsors of the project are the City of Victoria, Royal BC Museum, Il Terrazzo Restaurant, Downtown Victoria Business Association, BriMar Consultants Ltd, James Bay Pharmasave and BlackBall Ferry line.

Read about the history of Beacon Hill Park at .