Victoria’s city council has given the stamp of approval which will see significant upgrades in Centennial Square and Gorge Waterway near Banfield Park.
City staff suggest the 2023 Financial Plan Bylaw be amended to include $750,000 for Centennial Square Park’s upgrades and $300,000 for an upgraded swimming platform in the Gorge Waterway.
Funds for these two endeavours would come from the city’s Buildings and Infrastructure Reserve.
In April, council directed staff to make a ‘sequencing plan’ for the city’s parks. Since that time, Centennial Square and Gorge Waterway have emerged as priority parks to be upgraded.
City staff’s next report back to council won’t take place until early 2024 to confirm the costs associated with the renovations.
Centennial Square hasn’t seen a major overhaul like city staff are suggesting since 1965, when the space became what it is today.
Now, city staff are aiming to make the 58-year-old public space become something more modernized for the residents of Victoria’s present and future.
The first phase of suggested action would be to renovate the staircase in Centennial Square as well as replacing the fountain with a splash park.
Other priority tasks for the square include, additional trees, better accessibility, a commercial kiosk, more seating and better infrastructure to support large-scale events.
Future phases will include converting the undercroft of the west end of City Hall into an indoor multi-use space and improving transit infrastructure on the east side of the Square.
The biggest hurdle for the construction crews that will work on this project will be the underground utilities that run through the square.
Council has also asked staff to add a new swimming dock in the Gorge Inlet by the summer of 2024.
The new swimming dock is to be located in the southwest area of the Gorge Inlet, adjacent to the Banfield Park’s swimming dock which was expanded last year and the floating dock which was installed in 2021.
Council recently directed staff to work with staff from the Township of Esquimalt to investigate what an additional swimming dock at the end of Arm Street would look like, but due to several concerns, the idea was squashed and will not be pursued by either municipality.
Following this, Victoria’s city staff determined that the Gorge Marine Park would be an ideal location for aquatic recreation and the safe separation of swimmers, boaters and paddlers.
City staff are looking to install buoys to create a protected swim zone and a new swim platform for a total cost of $300,000.
Combined, these projects will cost $1.05 million dollars from the Buildings and Infrastructure Reserve, which city staff report currently has $8.4 million.
After some deliberation and questions for city staff from several council members, the ‘okay’ was given to city staff to further investigate how to go about these upgrades.
“I do support this, I think it’s a great starting point — let me say that I do think this is a starting point,” said Mayor Marianne Alto.
Every councillor except Chris Coleman and Marg Gardiner voted in favour of the proposed changes to Centennial Square, and the Gorge Waterway changes were unanimously voted in favour of.
Opportunities for public feedback will come in the near future for both of these endeavours.