The downtowns of many North American cities are dominated by an intersection. Some prominent Canadian examples are Bloor and Yonge in Toronto, Portage and Main in Winnipeg and Granville and Georgia in Vancouver. In Victoria, most would say our comparative would be Yates and Douglas, which if you have been there recently you would likely say we could do better. To be fair, if money were no object, Yates and Douglas could be amazing, it has a legitimately amazing building on each corner, but they are either a bank or a little run down, not porous to the public. To the south there is Fort and Douglas which is a lot more animated, mostly because one corner is Cactus Club and another is a busy bus stop with a plaza, but again dull financial institutions dominate the space.
We do have another option however that was pointed out to me by @busdriverlife on twitter. Right in between the Douglas intersections of Yates and Fort sits View Street. View is an odd intersection. At the opposite end of the blocks of View both parts begin as two-way and as they approach Douglas turn to one-way. They are now opposing one way streets and in effect create a double T-intersection. As anyone that spends time downtown will know, the traffic turning onto Douglas from either side of View is light.
Looking at the sections of View Street that are one-way only there is the potential to create and amazing public space that with the right animations could create a focal point downtown that could be the gathering place for Victorians.
I recognise that there will be those that will say that this will just be another gathering spot for the homeless, but again if enough reasons are given for Victorians at large to enjoy the space I think it could be amazing.
The kinds of things that could work in my opinion would be a continuation of the Bastion Square market, or a differently focused market. Perhaps given the proximity of Russell's and Munro's, they could sponsor a book market where people could sell used books. Another option for sales could be flowers and vegetables, sort of a daily farmers market. Given the central location and the growing number of downtown residents this could possibly work.
In addition to creating the reason for people to go there, the city would also have to make the space comfortable, with perhaps the addition of unique lighting, public art and lots of seating.
With the right setting and amenities you don't need a giant swath of green space to create an urban oasis, you just need to create a place that people want to go.
Let me know what you think and if you have some better ideas on what could animate a new public space here!