Downtown Kelowna upgrade now in property owners’ hands

Bernard Avenue’s faded beauty has been conversation fodder for years, but by the start of next month it may actually be on the path to getting a facelift.

Bernard Avenue's future is in the hands of property owners.

Bernard Avenue's future is in the hands of property owners.

Bernard Avenue’s faded beauty has been conversation fodder for years, but by the start of next month it may actually be on the path to getting a  facelift.

Owners of the 73 properties on Kelowna’s main drag were petitioned last Friday and they have until Oct. 3 to send the city their view of taking on 25 per cent of the cost associated with a physical upgrade.

Their total share amounts to about $1.3 million, and the city will chip in the rest when they bring underground utilities to modern standards, said city planner Pat McCormack.

“Provincial legislation requires the municipality to petition property owners when they’re being asked to pay for some, or all, of an infrastructure project,” he said, explaining only those who oppose the added expense will send the city their two cents.

If all goes by city design, and the plan gets support of business owners, city council will then approve the third and forth reading of the bylaws that will move the process forward and construction will start as of the spring of 2012.

Whether everything will go as planned, however, remains to be seen.

Although the street’s appearance has often been maligned for being generally dodgy, physical improvements haven’t been introduced without controversy.

During the last council meeting where the issue was discussed, Coun. Graeme James forecast physical upgrade plans would be cast aside due to one sticking point.

With the new design, Bernard’s old-fashioned parking system would be switched to parallel parking—the current 173  spots would be reduced to 132 spots—to make room for wider sidewalks.

“Business owners have to make a living 12 months a year and parking is a huge issue,” said James, when the issue arose. “I’ve talked to both sides, and I don’t think it will go through, and I’m concerned we’ll get nothing for it, and the streetscape will look as is.

“I hope I’m wrong, I really do, but I don’t think the property owners are in full support of this.”

Although James had received enough feedback to cause him to doubt the plan’s viability, Peggy Athans, with the Downtown Kelowna Association, was steadfast in her belief business owners would be supportive.

“We have done our due diligence when it came to the question of parking,” she said, stressing that there’s a great deal of under-utilized parking on side streets.

More than anything, however, the plan is far more intricate than just a parking reconfiguration, and most will be pleased with the full picture that came to be after a lengthy public process, she said.

Among the design elements are a reduction of traffic from two lanes either way, to one lane in each direction with a turning route.

Sidewalks will more than double in width, in some spots, and a bike lane will be implemented.

Pedestrians, cyclists and outdoor diners will all be given priority in the plan, which Coun. Robert Hobson described as being similar to that of Vancouver’s Granville Street.

“That’s a great consumer social experience and that’s what Bernard Avenue has to do,” he said.

For more information on the plan, go to www.kelowna.ca.

 

Kelowna Capital News