The birth of The NOtCH (or North Downtown or South Rock Bay)


Most cities in North America have at least one of those up and coming neighbourhoods with some cool moniker. These 'hoods are usually named with plays on the various neighbourhood names in New York like Soho (South of Houston Street) or Tribeca (Triangle below Canal). Victoria, has to this point avoided this type of name. We do have LoJo for lower Johnson however outside of the business community, it is not used very much.

In this post I am looking specifically at the area bound to the west by the upper harbour, to the north by Bay Street, the east by Blanshard and the south by Chatham. Almost a decade ago, I believe it is when the Radius project was first proposed (now the Hudson Walk
The wall of downtown along Chatham (Ok Caledonia) with the Azzurro
project in the foreground. 
project), there was an animated discussion on Vibrant Victoria about a potential name for the neighbourhood. This conversation was mostly in response to the strange thought of calling this area "Uptown". In any event there were some very interesting ideas bounced around. This area is technically part of Rock Bay, however, since Rock Bay extends almost all the way to the Selkirk Waterfront, it is far too large and diverse to be a single neighbourhood. 

If you look back at the 2006 conversation on Vibrant Victoria, you will see some of the better names for the area. My favourite, proposed by Holden West, was the NOtCH or North of Chatham. This makes so much sense when you look at how downtown has been bound by the line made by this street. 

What much of the 'hood looks like today.
For years when you have driven into Victoria from the north, there has been almost a wall of buildings that lie just to the south of Chatham (or Caledonia depending which side of Douglas you are on). The Hudson Walk project is bringing urban residential density right to the edge of this area. Just a block to the north, the first new residential building is going up called the Azzurro. This will finally start to bring in a reasonable amount of people to the area. Still walking around the neighbourhood now there is a lot that needs to be fixed-up. 

Street after street are devoted to auto repair, tax offices, contractors and many of the buildings are better suited to an auto-dominated suburb than a neighbourhood just a couple blocks from the bustle of downtown. While some may walk through the area and think that it is better forgotten, I see immense potential and hopefully the birth of the newest (and maybe coolest) downtown
How can this be next to downtown?

The good news is that there are already glimmers of of this 'hood rising above its greyness. With the Hudson project moving ahead at full throttle and now home to the lively Victoria Public Market, new vibrant and youthful businesses are opening. Just across the street from the market is one of the best new night spots in the city, Northern Quarter. Around the corner is another new restaurant as well. North of Chatham, along Douglas Street there is a row of stores on the west side which if developed right could be the centre of a new and thriving neighbourhood. 

Discovery Coffee's first location.
There are some well established and cool places already in the NOtCH, Discovery Coffee's first location is still there on Discovery Street and just across Douglas Street is the city's only outdoor pool patio and bar. Also on Douglas, is perhaps the best latin american grocery on the South Island (Is there another one?), with the Mexican House of Spice. Across of Government Street, most of the city knows where Phillips Brewery is.

Victoria needs to see that just like Harris Green to the east of downtown, Victoria needs another neighbourhood with high density residential next to the downtown core. Areas like this can become destinations on their own if the foresight and will is put into it. A good example is Yale Town in Vancouver which during Expo 86 was still mostly abandoned warehouses. Thirty years later it is one of the most engaging areas of downtown Vancouver. 

This massive vacant lot would be a great place to start
building some density in this neighbourhood!
Let me know what some of your favourite places in this neighbourhood are. If you have a great name for the 'hood even better!