A San Francisco-based urban planner believes her experiences in the Golden Gate city could apply to downtown Victoria, especially where the tech sector is concerned — germane given Victoria’s economy boasts a tech industry worth $3 billion dollars.
Using the example of the San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center (“the Grand Central of the West”) Libby Seifel of Seifel Consulting addressed members of the local development industry at the Urban Development Institute (UDI) Capital Region luncheon on April 8 in Victoria.
According to Seifel, research shows that technology businesses thrive best in a compact, transit-rich environment and that better transit connectivity helps expand the regional labour market and make it easier for workers to reach jobs.
“What are knowledge-sector businesses looking for? As you’re thinking about your planning in Victoria, it’s important to think about the future of work and the companies of the future; where they want to be and where their employees want to be,” Seifel says.
San Francisco is emerging as a major hub for many rapidly expanding technology and knowledge service companies as big players like Google, Apple and Salesforce.com move a significant part of their operations into the downtown.
The Transbay Transit Centre, a project that Seifel’s consulting firm is working on, is transforming downtown San Francisco by building a landmark multi-modal transit hub and creating a walkable, transit-oriented development neighborhood featuring more than 11 acres of parks, public plazas, retail, and tree-lined streets.
Robert Jawl, Victoria Chair of UDI Capital Region and director of Jawl Properties Inc. traveled to San Francisco in April 2013 as part of UDI’s out of town development tour.
“While the scale of the cities may be different, the nature of some of our underlying challenges are similar and there are lessons there that we can use locally,” Jawl says.
In addition to sharing details of the centre, Seifel’s presentation, “Leveraging Value to Create Great Places,” focused on how factors like high-quality design, market synergies, occupancies levels and anchor tenants are all affected by the key value enhancers of transit, open spaces, walkability and “just making great neighborhood places.”
“I’ve had the great fortune of walking around downtown Victoria,” Seifel says. “Which to me exemplifies what a great place is and what the qualities are.”