Less than two years after firing up an excavator to mark the beginning of the Bernard Avenue revitalization, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray cut the ribbon to officially reopen Kelowna’s “Main Street” Bernard Avenue, in its entirety.
The opening of the final section marked completion of the $14.3 million projects, which was done in four phases over 21 months.
“This project was one of the first to be realized out of the Downtown Plan and it has become a catalyst to improving our downtown,” said Gray.
“With new parkades, an expansion of Stuart Park, a $5.6-million investment into downtown’s transit exchange (Queensway) and private developments like the recently completed public pier, the almost completed Kelowna Yacht clubhouse, the proposed Interior Health Building, the Innovation Center and the Westcorp Hotel, it truly is happening downtown.”
With its wider sidewalks, improved lighting and street furniture, its new artwork and revamped utilities under the roadway, Gray called Bernard a “people place” that has transformed what was just a road into a “destination.”
The improvements saw Bernard’s four lanes narrowed to two lanes with a centre turning lane, expanded outdoor retail and café space, the wider sidewalks for pedestrians, intersection plazas and landscaping, as well as the replacement of the angle parking with larger parallel parking spaces.
“On behalf of the Downtown Kelowna Association we are so excited to have the street completed,” said Dustin Sargent, vic-president of the Downtown Kelowna Association. “Thank you to all the people involved, from the contractor to the city, to the businesses that made this process the best it could be.”
For the first time, the city used a phased construction schedule that stopped work during the height of the summer last year and the Christmas season in 2012 and 2013 to mitigate the impact on area merchants. It also employed a comprehensive communications plan that saw a communications official hired to act as the liaison between the city and contractor and the merchants. She was able to handle any questions that came up and provide answers quickly.
Both the project itself and the communications plan used to keep merchants and the pubic informed about the work have been recognized with awards in recent weeks.
Area residents are being encouraged to “discover” the new Bernard Avenue and share photos on the city’s Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram tagged with #BernardSelfie. Entries will be eligible to win a pair of tickets to see tribute band “God Save the Queen” live in concert.