There was a mixture of reactions as customers visited businesses along the first upgraded phase of Bernard Avenue Saturday morning.
Once there, many enjoyed walking on the expanded sidewalks as they noticed the new streetscape features between Richter and Ellis Streets.
Those who visited Friday night were excited by the illuminating gateway that signifies the beginning of Kelowna’s downtown.
But getting to the refurbished avenue and finding parking was a less enjoyable experience for many.
“I’ve had a lot of people complain…they think it looks good but they don’t like what they decided to do with the parking,” said Samuel Richards, owner of Gifts for Him.
Richards said it might take a while for people to adjust to the new look, and more pedestrian-friendly, street.
“When it’s all done it’s going to be a reduction of around (61) parking spots; that’s a bit of a worry because if people can’t find parking, they won’t want to come down here to shop,” said Richards.
The store owner said he was happy with many aspects of the improvements, especially the neon lights at the corner of Richter Street and Bernard Avenue.
Although the construction period likely hindered customers from visiting Richard’s store for three months, Gifts for Him—formerly Bergman’s Gentlemen’s Gifts—took advantage of the lull to rebrand and make several changes to the shop.
“It’s kind of fun to unveil the new store as they unveil the new street.”
Ryan Hunter, owner of men’s underwear store Behind the Fly, said he was happy with the look of the street outside his store.
“It’s looks great,” said Hunter.
“The sidewalks are huge; it’s all open. I think they’ve done a great job.
“To come down here now, it’s like this big outdoor mall feeling…it doesn’t look like the same street at all anymore.”
The biggest concern Hunter has heard from other business owners and customers so far is the switch from angle to parallel parking. He said the majority of conversations he had with customers Friday night and Saturday morning involved complaints about fewer stalls along the road.
Hunter said he was always pro-construction and he felt the work needed to be done; however, the last three months have been challenging for the new business owner.
“The first two weeks of September were really bad. People were confused and didn’t know where to go.
“The last three weeks of construction were the worst, when they started pouring the sidewalks. It was like a maze trying to get anywhere…the gates were all over the place and workers were directing you where to go.
“I had dirt in front of my store for a whole week and people didn’t even want to come in.”
Although there were some short-term disadvantages of putting up with the construction, Hunter said it could have been a lot worse.
“The city did a lot to try to keep traffic coming and bring people down.”
The second phase of the revitalization project—from Abbott to Pandosy Streets—is expected to take place from February to June, 2013.