Margaret Lucas is on a mission to make positive changes downtown and within the business community.
Margaret Lucas is on a mission. After 17 years as general manager of Olympic View Golf Club, she now calls downtown Victoria her stomping grounds. She’s leading the transformation of the historic Douglas Hotel, is actively involved on several community boards, and is now ready to tackle her challenging new role as chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce for 2008.
You were recently brought on as general manager during the transformation of the Hotel Douglas to the Hotel Rialto. How has that been?
It’s been an unbelievably exciting project to be a part of. I was brought on by the owner to make some significant changes to this hotel and also to help with some of the transformation of the north end of Douglas Street. It was really imperative that we bring some respectability back to the business community and that we were serious about cleaning it up and making some major changes and being part of the corporate community.
Is this what prompted you to get involved as chair of the Downtown Business Association’s Clean and Safe, Block by Block program?
We brought together the social agencies, the Victoria City Police, City Hall, and the business community to start working on the issues we were facing and the challenges in the downtown core. At some time, everybody was quite individualized in that, and we recognized there was a need to get everybody together and start working as a team.
What has the response been from the business community?
We’re seeing some wonderful examples of that with Lower Johnson, now called Lo Jo. Groups of businesses have come together, they’ve created their own identity, and they’ve marketed that. I’d like to see that happen on the north end. We have the largest amount of development happening on this north end. We have so much potential here to create something of our own. When the Bay was on this end, people used to walk from the Bay to Eaton’s. There was a lot of foot traffic and there were some unique little shops along the way. But once the Bay moved down, we did see [pedestrian traffic] move towards the other end. With the Hudson and the Radius being built down at this end of town, they’re going to be putting in some retail on their main floors and some of those things necessary to get the foot traffic back.
You are also very involved with the Greater Victoria Economic Development Agency and in attracting new business to the region.
There was a huge push to get that started. We’re the capital city in the province and we didn’t have [a development agency]. We’re working with all of the municipalities to make sure that it’s successful. We want to bring people here and retain them. We have the social issues that the business community is dealing with everyday. It’s not necessarily just what happens downtown; it’s what impacts the whole Greater Victoria region, and this is just one part of it.
How are you feeling about the responsibilities involved with becoming chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce for 2008?
I think the challenges that are faced here at this hotel have prepared me for what I am going to encounter as the incoming chair. I have gotten to know a tremendous number of people from all segments of the community. I feel I have the information and the knowledge required to carry the chamber into 2008. It’s a huge role. I take it very seriously and I’m looking forward to it. We have so much strength in this city. We have some negatives as well, but I am so motivated by all of the wonderful things we have here in Victoria that we can expand upon.
How do you find the time to wear so many hats? Do you get any down time at all?
I have four adult children who are now leading their own lives, so it’s freeing up time for me to take on these challenges. When I do have down time, you’ll probably find me in my garden. I really enjoy gardening.
What makes you so passionate about being a Victorian?
I hear people who come to the hotel say, “this is paradise.” It’s an amazing place. We take it for granted, the beauty of Victoria, the lifestyle we have. I think those of us that are long time Victorians want to keep that a bit of a secret. We have to maintain that, we have to take it seriously, and we have to make sure that some of the challenges don’t overtake it. Is there a more beautiful place? I don’t think so.