I was blown away by the response to the Victoria Main Street Program’s first-ever Art Walk earlier this month. Downtown was bustling with residents enjoying the return to normalcy, going to businesses and perusing artwork by talented local artists.
This successful event shows what can happen when community members come together in support of a common cause: building a thriving downtown where people can live, work and play. I’m thankful for the support of the Victoria Art League in making this event possible, and I hope to partner with even more community organizations to make this event bigger and better.
Supporting downtown is critical because downtown is truly the heart of our community. It’s where Victoria began, and it continues to hold its own history and unique style that isn’t seen anywhere else in the city. When downtown is booming, our whole community benefits.
Our downtown plays a key role in economic development by attracting visitors and potential new residents to our city. This is especially important as our society shifts to remote work, spurred on by the pandemic. When people don’t need to live near their workplaces, they are free to choose the place they want to live based on the attractiveness of a community.
The City of Victoria uses many different methods to make our city the kind of place people will want to live. For example, the Community Appearance Division supports beautification projects that make our community more attractive to residents and investors. The Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation allocates sales tax funding to business-friendly projects from a sewer line for a new medical plaza to a ramp relocation that will benefit a proposed new shopping center.
Downtown development is simply my piece of the community enhancement puzzle, and it encompasses many factors: planning events; supporting business owners (especially during the pandemic); coordinating beautification projects, including public art; and finding ways to promote the development of retail and residential options downtown. Whether I’m researching incentive programs or calling someone to power-wash a sidewalk, I’m always here to help build up downtown for our community.
I’m excited to be able to host more public events this year and bring even more visitors downtown. By cultivating artistic and cultural activities such as the Art Walk, I hope to eventually earn a cultural district designation for downtown. Plan 2035 calls for the City to make greater use of special district designations to promote investment. A cultural district designation would increase our access to grants and open up new development opportunities.
We’re also preparing to finalize the downtown master plan later this year, which will serve as a guide for downtown development that aligns with the community’s wishes. I’m thankful to everyone who’s submitted input so far, and I hope you’ll take part in our final survey, which we’ll begin promoting in July.
My first year as Main Street Program director has been filled with challenges and rewards, and I know that we’ve only just begun to realize the opportunities in our historic downtown. I’m excited to see what downtown can become with the support of community organizations, artists, business owners and all of our residents coming together to imagine the possibilities.
Danielle Williams is the director of the City of Victoria Main Street Program.