The City of Kelowna is again eyeing the downtown closure of Bernard Avenue through the summer, making the pedestrian thoroughfare an annual event.
But it’s hoping to make some changes from last year’s hastily introduced closure that was met with mixed support from businesses further up the street.
In summer 2020, the city blocked off Bernard from the Sails to St. Paul Street, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to roam the roadway and businesses to expand patios into the street. Businesses near the lake, in the 200 and 300 blocks, largely had positive experiences. But in the 400 and 500 blocks, less than 60 per cent of businesses favour reintroducing the program.
Some business owners in that area cited concerns, largely regarding the loss of on-street parking. They suggested the lack of parking will cause some customers not to visit downtown storefronts and restaurants as they may feel unsafe walking to and from parkades. Businesses also had COVID-19 concerns, saying the program may be better suited for a post-pandemic world and advised the city they had difficulties receiving deliveries.
To remedy those concerns, the city plans to create a pedestrian ‘green street’ in the 400 and 500 blocks.
Now dubbed the ‘Meet me on Bernard’ program, the city plans to offer live music, Indigenous art galleries, parklets, public art, murals, and street games to liven up the closure’s western side. City staff said similar programs have proven successful in other cities such as Vancouver’s Granville Island, Miami’s Lincoln Road, Whistler Village, and Charlottetown’s Victoria Row.
The city has received letters of support for the plan from several organizations, including the Downtown Kelowna Association, Festivals Kelowna, Tourism Kelowna, and others.
The program as a whole will cost the city $53,000, which includes around $20,000 from the patio extension program. The city is also seeking an additional $50,000 Canada Healthy Community Initiatives grant to help fund the program.
Council will consider the program and its funding at its Monday (March 15) meeting.
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