Victoria making positive economic recovery from COVID-19 pandemic: city report
The City of Victoria is out with the second of its quarterly reports called ‘Building Back Victoria.’ It paints a rosy picture of downtown Victoria’s economic recovery after a dismal 2020.
“There’s a story out there and the numbers tell a bit of different story,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
The story is that downtown Victoria businesses are struggling to make it out of the pandemic and there is a perception that people are not coming downtown anymore.
The report shows that is not exactly true.
“What we’ve seen this year over last is an improvement in just about every indicator,” said Helps.
Data collected from the Park Victoria app shows a 40 per cent increase in people parking downtown in May, June and July over the same months in 2020. Pedestrian traffic is also up 44 per cent over last year.
“More people are coming downtown,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “We can see that through the number of people walking the streets through our pedestrian counters.”
“The parkades are busier, the parking meters are busier,” he added.
With tourism making a comeback this summer, Zingaro Floral Perfumery on Johnson Street saw some good summer sales numbers. It wasn’t just tourists that were coming in either.
“I’ve seen what I felt was a lot more people from the suburbs actually coming into the city, which was wonderful to see,” said owner Palma Cafolla.
The report also paints a positive economic picture for entrepreneurs and developers wanting to invest in the core.
Business licences issued in 2021 were up 55 per cent over 2020 numbers and were actually up over 2019 numbers as well. Building permit applications were also up this year, 26 per cent higher than 2020.
Hotel occupancies are also up, as are film permits.
It’s not all roses though. The increase in crime downtown during the pandemic has been acknowledged by both police and the city.
The complex problems of homelessness and addiction have been very visible and businesses have had to dig into their already depleted pockets to beef up security.
Also, the normally reliable government crowd is still largely working from home.
“Mostly it’s the office workers that we miss a lot,” said Glen Lynch, owner of Baggins Shoes on Johnson Street.
Baggins has been in operation in Victoria for 50 years. Lynch says on the weekends there is a lineup to get into his store due to pandemic safety restrictions. Those lineups are still hurting his sales.
“We have lineups at the door and can’t service everybody, so sometimes we lose a few people because of the restrictions from the pandemic,” said Lynch.
That of course is out of the hands of mayor and council. Overall, the report shows numbers that speak against the narrative that downtown has had its day and is now on the decline.
“I’m going nowhere,” said Cafolla. “This building downtown is so beautiful and I think I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but downtown.”