I seem to be on a plaza kind of kick recently. Again on the weekend I found myself walking around a plaza, this time the new plaza outside of the Janion building and next to the new bridge, which is set to open in two weeks. Now without the bridge open and with the commercial space not yet filled, it is too early to say whether it will be a space that draws people or not.
If you saw my piece on the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, you would know that one of the keys things that I think a public space needs is people. Seems obvious and easy. Just make the space nice, right?! No! You need a enough people in the area that want an outdoor space to spend time in. You can't have every building have a public space outside, no matter how nice. You need to have people that must walk a block or two to get to an open space outside and you need enough people to have to do that for one space to be successful. Unfortunately, we have a council that needs to be appeased with amenities with each building that comes for approval and these often come in the form of public space. Just in the last week, I have seen plans for two more buildings in this neighbourhood and both are proposing significant public space. One is the Northern Junk Building, just across road from the Janion and the other is the Victoria Plaza Hotel redevelopment. And these buildings are already in an area of abundant public space with Market Square and Centennial Square nearby.
Back to the Janion space. There is one commercial space filled in the new building, but it is around the corner on Store Street (Tout de Sweet for those that are wondering). YAM Magazine has a piece this month on lofts in Chinatown and one of them is on the top floor of the Janion looking out over the square. If some food service places are drawn into the spaces below, I can see the plaza having some seating spilling out across it. I am a little concerned about the noise factor here with traffic but perhaps it won't be as bad as I think once the construction noise is gone.
So far the square only has the paved space and some of the tree placed, there are no benches, sculptures or anything of interest. Perhaps the idea is that you will look at the bridge and the building.
Last week the City put in place plans for the extension of the harbourfront walkway (I don't like to use the other silly name) which will have a connection between the bottom of the Janion through to the future Northern Junk building. Unfortunately for now, at the western end of the square a set of stairs go down to a nice harbour lookout, but it is a dead end and obviously not very well watched as was evident by the drinking party that was going on down there. Hopefully, with the pathway extension and someone taking on the commercial space, that challenge will go away.
As the space evolves over the next few months I will go down and provide some updates. Certainly with the plan for another building going on the parking lot next door, there is the potential for having a lot of people that will need some space!