Downtown Victoria is on the verge of a big change—one that might stick around for quite some time.
If you have been around for a decade or so, you would have noticed that it looks quite unrecognisable now. Take for instance the evident construction boom and the expansion of retail stores, restaurants and other establishments, which, at the same time have brought in a huge crowd of people. New places, new faces, as they say. We are no longer looking at the old ghost town where people seem to disappear after five; we are now a thriving metropolis, alive and buzzing with activity and a surprising vitality, sun up or sun down.
We caught up with Matt Fraleigh, a senior associate with Colliers International as he was presenting to a group of retailers.
Fraleigh pointed out the energy is coming from the growing younger demographic and the residential densification of Downtown Victoria.
According to a survey by Colliers, Greater Victoria now has a population of 360,000, and the youthful population* has now exceeded the older population**.
The surge in the number of young people is directly correlated to the growing Tech sector and Colliers reports 900 tech companies are already established in and around Victoria, which translates to 23,000 employees and an estimated $4 billion in revenue. The majority of these employees are millennials.
According to Fraleigh, this new younger population, or the millennial demographic, is poised to usher in big economic changes in Victoria, which include an increased demand for condominiums and rentals. Millennial demand has already driven over 1,573 rental units and 890 strata units under construction. According to a Times Colonist report, land developers are also starting to convert historic buildings into residences, which is a good thing as they draw attention to and maintain downtown’s nostalgic beauty.
Other changes include a huge retail explosion and tourism boom. “The millennial hipsters are in their late 20’s to mid 30’s. They are well educated and well paid. They’re fashion forward and connoisseurs of good food, microbrew beer and a healthy lifestyle. They prefer to live, work, play and shop downtown.” Fraleigh said.
Apart from the usual international tourists, millennial tourists come in great numbers to watch Victoria’s music festivals, feast on speciality foods, local coffees and enjoy Canada’s finest micro-breweries. As if Victoria is indebted to this spunky new generation, it’s forced to reshape its entire economy to cater to their needs, gain, and maintain their favour. After all, who doesn’t want a share of their ever-increasing spending capacity?
This positive economic growth came on the heels as Greater Victoria was recovering from a most challenging 2015, which was a year of significant vacancies. Fraleigh recalled the most notorious: Target pulling out of the Canadian market, which left giant vacancies in two major local shopping malls.
These changes, though overwhelming at first, are encouraging.
*25 to 54 years old
**55 to 84 years old