Victoria’s New Public Market

Philippe Lucas, Victoria Public Market | BCBusiness
Philippe Lucas is turning one of Victoria’s oldest buildings into its newest destination.

Victoria gets its first permanent public market since the 1960s

“You’re not going to find a bad painting of the inner harbour in here. All these businesses are entirely food-related,” declares Philippe Lucas, chair of the Victoria Downtown Public Market Society. He’s referring to Victoria’s first permanent public market since the 1960s, the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, scheduled to launch at the end of this month. After moving to Victoria in 1995, Lucas was bewildered by the absence of a public market and sought to revive that cultural gap in the city. “It’s about supporting local business, increasing food security and creating an iconic and vibrant destination for residents and tourists alike,” he says. The project has been years in the making—Lucas began polling local farmers about their interest nine years ago, but officially it’s been underway since 2010, when the VDPMS formed.

With its impressive 18,000-square-feet in the historic Hudson Building, the new, indoor market aspires to emanate qualities of other dynamic public markets, such as the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco and Montreal’s Atwater Market. Open year-round, it features 11 permanent vendors on three- to five-year contracts; eight kiosks on one-year contracts; eight indoor day tables; and 20-plus outdoor day tables on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“There are three levels of retail you’re going to see,” says Lucas, adding that the model is centred on the need to include various levels of commitment. Doing so ensures that the market can accommodate established companies while providing a nurturing environment for emerging businesses.

A large part of the market’s success relies on finding the right vendors, which Lucas calls “the four cornerstones”: the baker, the butcher, the fishmonger and the green grocer. With its focus firmly on food, the VDPMS has already secured popular local chefs and businesses—such as Silk Road Tea and Salt Spring Island Cheese Company Ltd.—and has received a lease offer from iconic Vancouver restaurant Vij’s. “As a local foodie, if I can have played a small part in helping establish a Vij’s in Victoria, it will have been a great thing,” says Lucas.

As much as the market will be an asset to residents, it’s also a boon for farmers, who are gaining a year-round outlet for their goods. “We really think that we’re going to have a significant impact on local food producers and processors on the South Island and in the Gulf Islands,” says Lucas.

In addition to dozens of food vendors, Lucas’s vision includes a community kitchen that is leasable by the hour for courses and demonstrations and a stage for live music and entertainment.

“The first time you’re in Vancouver, you inevitably end up at Granville Island; in Seattle, you end up at Pike Place. That’s really our goal at this public market,” says Lucas. “This is going to be not just a food-related space, but a rich cultural space for the community.”