As an economist I am very aware of the need to pay attention to how my local community is affected by economic development. Actually, when I think of economic development for Saanich I get very excited because there is so much untapped potential.
In 2003, I was one several community leaders that brought together Smart Growth BC, land owners, tenants, business owners, land use experts, transportation planners, municipal staff and members of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association to take part in a design charrette. Our objective was to develop concepts around how roads and thoroughfares or as we defined them, travel corridors, could be developed in a manner that brought value to the community.
Now I don’t just mean land value or business values, but quality of life values. If we can slow the traffic down, is that of value to the community? If we create a community where cars are not the dominant transportation choice is that of value? If we use energy and water more efficiently, does that have community value? I would argue that all of these community values also have strongeconomic values.
We also need another reason for people to live here in Saanich. Jobs. Currently in Saanich, we have a number of retail jobs, some professional services and many home based businesses. I would like to suggest that we now look at another economic engine for this community – a “health precinct?”
My vision for a health precinct would have facilities that support the Victoria General Hospital such as a hospice, assisted living, independent living, physiotherapy services, dental services with the potential to perhaps include other alternative treatment centres. There could be a mix of public and private sectors much like there already is in the Jubilee neighbourhood. This is an area of Greater Victoria where the population does not have the benefits of such services and it would be appropriate to locate them in a central area close to the various transportation choices.
As part of this project we would want to see designs that would compare to the most sustainable examples in the region, Dockside Green and West Hills where affordable housing, more local commercial opportunities and additional recreation choices are integrated as part of the community.
If this proposal is accepted by the community then we can begin to meet with property owners to see what kind of partnerships we can create in order to begin the development process. I really believe that the strength of community lies in its cohesiveness and sustainability and for this reason I would welcome any input or informal discussions to explore all the options.