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Romeo's has been closed for years, Urbana plans to move in the spring
Turning a paved lot into paradise—that's the City of Victoria's plan for the long-empty Romeo's lot at the corner of Blanshard and Fisgard. The city has purchased it and the adjoining lot—where Urbana Kitchens currently operates—to build a new park for the downtown core.
The city bought the lots—a combined 25K-sq. feet of space—for $11M, using reserve funds set aside for the purchasing of parks.
Future development costs are still to be determined, as well as the development start date. Details of the park’s layout have not yet been decided on, but Thomas Soulliere, deputy city manager for City of Victoria, said access to nature will be the priority.
“We’ll be reintroducing nature back to this part of the city,” said Soulliere, adding that an area for playground equipment will likely be included as well. “We’re really looking for a well-rounded place that can serve people of all ages and abilities.”
The city has consulted with citizens for more than a decade about plans for the downtown core and Souilliere said an urban park consistently came out as a priority.
Soulliere said the location met several needs for a park, such as its proximity to transit, and bike and pedestrian routes. Its southern exposure also makes it ideal for growing trees and other plants, he says.
Asked why the city chose to use the space for a park rather than housing, Soulliere said that while housing is a “top priority for the city,” green spaces need to be a part of the long-term plans, especially as the area continues to densify.
Green spaces have been shown to greatly reduce urban heat, a growing concern amid the climate crisis. For Victoria, the downtown area stands out as one of the few sections of the city that lacks tree canopies and proximity to parks. It also has, in turn, higher summer temperatures than other parts of the city.