Parking, safety top concerns for Victoria businesses: report
Parking issues and safety are among the top concerns flagged by downtown Victoria businesses in a new 13-page report.
It was done by the Downtown Victoria Business Association, which received survey responses from hundreds of business owners.
"Our members are generally feeling very positive about the economic vitality of downtown," says executive director Jeff Bray.
A majority of respondents (63%) said their business experienced a growth in net profits from 2017 to 2018.
The number of business licences being issued over several years has been going up and vacancy rates for office and retail spaces have been falling.
But there are suggested areas for improvement.
The top three concerns are parking availability, parking cost, and safety/security.
On parking, a Crust Bakery owner says they hear complaints from customer "a lot."
"We hear that people can't find places to park downtown so they avoid coming down here," says Tom Moore.
While business for the Fort Street eatery is good, the owner would like to see more parking spaces to help attract people who don't live in the downtown core.
Victoria's mayor says parking will always be a problem in a healthy downtown.
"Improving ways for people to get downtown by bus, walking and cycling will mean that there's more parking freed up for people who still need to drive or want to drive," says Lisa Helps.
There are more than 6,700 parking stalls managed by the city and private companies. But in the last four years, the DVBA estimates 1,800 spots have been lost because of redevelopment of surface lots.
"They're not just complaints. They're not grumbles," says Bray. "They're actually issues that [businesses] have identified that impact their own economic vitality."
Feedback to the DVBA also indicates members would like to see a greater police presence downtown to help tackle concerns with safety and security.
Victoria's chief of police says he doesn't have any resources to redeploy right now, but he's trying.
"I would like to do it. I know the community wants it," says Del Manak. "But I'm left with decisions from council that restrict me from adding resources to be able to perform that."
Helps says she was supportive of the department's request for a higher budget and that the issue will have to come back to council next year.
The DVBA's report is expected to be done on an annual basis.
"Commercial tenants pay 48 per cent of all the taxes in Victoria and they have no vote," says Bray. "So this is a way for them to make sure their voice is heard."