The reports of the demise of Sidney’s downtown as a result of mall development on the Saanich Peninsula are greatly exaggerated. Why I say that with confidence is because downtown Sidney presently embodies the most important elements of a healthy and prosperous community. Sidney is definitely a changing community, but positively, as living and work spaces are being developed in keeping with a vision that considers how people want to live, engendering a strong sense of place.
Downtown Sidney-by-the-Sea is distinctive from other areas on the Peninsula, indeed from others on Vancouver Island. It is a destination because of its picturesque waterfront area. It is a compact, safe, multifunctional, pedestrian-friendly community, with an interesting mix of businesses. Consideration has been given to the aesthetics and to creating spaces for people to gather and linger. The environmental and natural settings are attractive to residents and create a community where neighbours converse while taking leisurely walks down Beacon and along the seaside waterfront walkway. It also makes Sidney a choice location for day-trippers.
This is very different from the purpose of a mall – a place where people make objective-based shopping decisions. These shoppers want to be in and out quickly and that means creating sizeable parking areas. A mall meets specific needs for shoppers but it cannot compete with the sense of place, of belonging, people seek in a community.
I don’t believe we want downtown Sidney to be good at being a parking lot for shoppers. The Gateway and Sandown developments will create greater economic activity on the Saanich Peninsula and will not necessarily threaten the vibrancy of downtown Sidney if we work together to maximize this opportunity.
Denny Warner, Executive Director
Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce