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Block x Block: Edition 2

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Programming Wish List


Pedestrian-priority design


Programmed event space


Build regional draw with architecturally unique approach


Support principles of diversity and inclusion

Policy Context




Downtown Victoria


Government Street (Humboldt to Pandora)

Current Land Use:

Thoroughfare (Temporarily closed due to COVID-19)

Policy Context:

Downtown Core Area


3.0 FSR

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The Government Street Ribbon

The pandemic has hinted at what a pedestrian priority city might look and feel like with vehicular streets being rebranded as places for people. It has also demonstrated the importance of public space as a networked, connected system, with walkable connectors between larger parks and plazas.

Government street is Victoria’s primary tourist street and a much-loved local destination, linking the Inner Harbour causeway to Centennial Square and City Hall. The Government Street Ribbon re-imagines the street as an active pedestrian oriented public space, stretching from Humboldt to Pandora Street.

The Government Street Ribbon playfully reconfigures the space between buildings with a paving and planting strategy that erases the street’s typical linear zones that maximize space for vehicles while relegating pedestrians to the perimeter, squeezed against buildings.

By creating a fluid pattern of wall to wall paving interspersed with planted islands and various programmed spaces, perpendicular linear movement is transformed into a more dynamic zone for public life with multiple places to walk, eat, sit, perform, and play.

Design Team

PFS Studio is a leading Canadian planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm offering consulting services nationally and internationally on a wide range of projects for both the public and private sectors. The firm has been in practice for over thirty years (formerly as Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg) and produces its award-winning work from its Vancouver studio and through a strategically allied joint enterprise in China. PFS Studio has led or been centrally involved in many large scale planning and design projects throughout Canada, the US, China and other international locations abroad. Because of its strong commitment to the Pacific Rim and, in particular, its long standing presence in China, PFS Studio works out of three allied offices in China – Shanghai, Guangzhou and Ningbo.

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The firm has received major recognition through numerous planning, urban design, heritage and landscape architecture awards over the years. These awards confirm the company’s commitment to innovation, technical advancement and cost effective design solutions as well as a keen ability to create memorable and engaging public spaces. PFS Studio is well known for both planning and built works and the firm’s extensive portfolio of work demonstrates its success in completing projects that have faced a high degree of complexity in both process and approvals.

Site Plan

Zone 1: Humboldt St. to Fort St.

• Narrowed roadway; local traffic only;

• Widened sidewalks;

• Special paving from building face to rolled curb and crosswalks to harbourfront promenade

• Stormwater garden, increased seating, patio zones, commercial spill out space, planted islands

Zone 2: Fort St. to Yates St.

• Pedestrian only;

• Traffic closed from Yates to Humboldt to connect Bastion Square and Trounce Alley to Harbourfront Walk;

• Tabletopped/curbless - continuous special paving;

• Emergency vehicles accommodated;

• Tea garden, beer garden, outdoor patios, weather protected stage and lounge, playground, gateway to Bastion Square and Trounce Alley, stormwater gardens, increased seating, commercial spill out space, planted islands

Zone 3: Yates St. to Pandora Ave.

• Narrowed roadway; local traffic only;

• Widened sidewalks;

• Special paving from building face to rolled curb;

• Stormwater gardens, increased seating patio zones, commercial spill out space, planted islands

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About the Design

The design for Government Street celebrates the old town district’s maritime history and proximity to the Inner Harbour, and the greater landscape of the Gulf Islands.

The curvilinear paving pattern breaks from Victoria’s traditional gridded red brick public spaces, and adds a contemporary layer to the urban fabric. This layer heightens the impact of the historic architecture by juxtaposing old and new. Organic berms soften the hardscape with lush native plantings, trees, and stormwater gardens. A continuous red ribbon links the blocks together, transforming from special paving, to seating, tables, overhead canopy, lighting and play structures.

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Two strategies for the street are offered.

Zones 1 and 3 narrow the street in favour of widened sidewalk zones that can support more seating, more generous tree root zones, stormwater planters, and spill out space for adjacent restaurants, cafes and shops.

Zone 2 ousts the vehicle and raises the street to become a continuous pedestrian oriented plaza. While emergency vehicles are still accommodated, the design prioritizes pedestrian activity and non-lineal movement.

Specific Design Features

• Ocean and Gulf Island Inspiration

• Planted Island including native species, edible planting, rain gardens, increased biodiversity and soil volumes for trees

• Unique paving pattern

• Linked with bold red ribbon which transforms from embedded paving to seating, to table, gateway, play structure and more

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