By Carolyn Heiman, Victoria Times Colonist, 2 June 2007
A new City Hall and downtown library, along with a spiffed up Centennial Square and a walk of fame on Douglas Street, topped a “to do” list rhymed off by Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe last night in an address marking the halfway point of his term.
“The city is lacking a functional civic square for people to gather,” Lowe said of Centennial Square, adding he’d like to move the fountain at the square’s centre, or change its design, to allow the area to be used as a festival site.
He said he’d also like to move the downtown library into the area around the square, noting that the province is interested in taking over its existing Broughton Street building.
If that happens, Lowe would like to tear down the parkade adjacent to Centennial Square and replace it with a new building to house the library, as well as offices for City Hall staff, and underground parking.
The present City Hall, a national heritage building, is cramped and not suitable for an organization aiming to be one of the top 100 places to work, Lowe said. It could be used as an archives or a museum facility.
Lowe set himself an 18-month goal — the remainder of his third term — to create plans to redevelop Centennial Square done.
He does, however, plan to move more quickly on a plan to create a B.C. Walk of Fame along Douglas Street outside the Crystal Garden building next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the founding of B.C. It would feature British Columbians who have made achievements in the arts, entertainment and sports, such as Pamela Anderson, Diana Krall, David Foster, and Steve Nash, and events held to celebrate the inductees would raise funds for homeless projects, said Lowe.
The mayor also would like to redevelop a parking lot just north of the Crystal Garden, perhaps as a hotel, which could be linked to the heritage building the city just leased to use for more conference centre space.
Lowe hinted at several other plans in his wide-ranging address, which touched on social, development and economic issues, but which was fairly short on details. For instance, he declined to spell out what two social housing projects would be built with funding he’s promising to secure, but did say the city will work with property managers and the province to make housing more affordable.
Lowe has yet to decide whether run again for mayor in the November 2008 elections, but Ben Isitt, his major opponent in the last vote, does plan to be on the ballot either for mayor or council. And it’s been widely rumoured that Coun. Dean Fortin is interested, although yesterday he said it was too soon to make a decision.
Casting back over Lowe’s term yesterday, Isitt had few criticisms.
“He has shifted quite a bit on issues. He’s been outspoken on homelessness, sewage treatment and transportation issues. That’s good. Perhaps he has been listening to voters,” said Isitt.
But he noted the city hasn’t made significant headway on issues around homelessness and the booming land development is mostly at the high end and out of reach for most people.