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Division among business owners on Bernard revitalization

The latest meeting to discuss the revitalization of Bernard Avenue garnered conflicting points of view from area business owners.

“I don’t know that we need revitalization, personally,” said Raegan Hall, owner of Blonde, a Bernard Avenue boutique.

“I think it looks awesome already. I love the small town vibe we have and people who come from Calgary and Vancouver are seeking out that.”

By Hall’s estimates, what’s being set out by the city isn’t significant enough to warrant the overhaul, and worse yet, it will stymie business.

Changes to the city’s parking scheme could reduce stalls by 30 per cent and that, she said, will amount to fewer people coming through her doors.

“I think my business is going to drop in half,” she said. “Kelowna is a driving town and people are coming from Mission, or Westbank and if they don’t have parking, I’m going to lose business.”

The plan puts an emphasis on wider sidewalks, and more foliage to give the main strip a more walkable feel, which some found value in.

Among those who are enthusiastic to see how the changes will roll out was Mike Bronswyk, co-owner of the Bread Company.

“I love it, I think this is going to be fantastic when they complete it,” he said.

“I am excited when I look at the plans. Right now a lot of people use it to drive to other streets, but now they will have to park, and walk down to Bernard as a destination.”

By his estimates, investment in improving the walkability of the area, that has in the past been maligned for being dingy and dark, is well worth it, and the city’s moving in the right direction.

“Big picture-wise, they’re on the right track,” he said.

The consultation for Bernard revitalization has been ongoing for over a year, and in that time business owners and community members have weighed in on everything from the price of upgrades to their wishlist for amenities.

The aesthetic upgrade is tied to a mandatory utility upgrade.

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