For Kelowna city council, success, when it comes to the planned revitalization of Bernard Avenue, will be that the same businesses that are along the street at the start of the project are still there when the work wraps up in two years time.
On Monday, council sat down with the consultant who has been contracted to come up with a communications plan for the project.
Councillors made it clear it’s important the public know that despite the work and the closure of parts of the road downtown to traffic over a two-year period, businesses on Bernard Avenue will remain open.
“People will think all of Bernard Avenue is closed,” said Coun. Andre Blanleil.
A business owner himself, Blanleil said he has been through two similar major road projects in other communities that directly affected his stores and said large projects such as the one planned for Bernard Avenue, from Richter Street to the lakeshore, can be hard on the businesses affected.
“There will be a loss of business,” he said. “Letting people know what is open and when (particular parts of the road) will be open is crucial,” said Blanleil.
The city plans to tear up Bernard Avenue in two phases over a two-year period starting next spring.
The work is needed to repair and improve infrastructure below the road and beautify the street above ground.
A vote by merchants along the affected blocks of Bernard Avenue to determine if they are willing to pay 25 per cent of the beautification work is set to wrap up Oct. 3.
On Monday council agreed that informative, regular and timely communication and updates, both for the merchants and the public will be important to make sure businesses can stay open during the lengthy construction period.
It will also be critical for the project to stay on time and on budget so as to limit the disruption as much as possible.
Suggestions made by council included clear and “friendly” signs encouraging the public to shop in the area and making sure the area remains open to pedestrians. Also, inviting the public down to see what is happening was suggested as was the use of lanes behind business that front onto Bernard Avenue.
The use of reader boards and signs directing people to local businesses were also suggested.
The company hired to develop the communications strategy, Shift Consulting, did a similar job a few years ago for Banff when it tore up its main street, one of the top tourist draws in Western Canada.