The end is in sight for one of the biggest civic revitalization projects ever in Kelowna.
The $14.3 million facelift and underground utility replacement of Bernard Avenue, the city’s main downtown street, is nearing completion. And the man in charge of the work says depending on the weather, it may be finished sooner than the June deadline.
“If the weather co-operates, we could be done in May,” said Bill Berry, manager of design and construction services for the City of Kelowna.
If it had not been for a prolonged labour dispute between FortisBC and its employees last year, the work would already be finished.
The company’s lockout of its workers forced the city to split the third and final stage of the project in two, with one part completed late last year but the other having to wait until earlier this year. The delay cost the city the seven months that had been made up on the original timeline by the Vernon-based contractor, CGL Contracting.
Despite that, more time has been made up since work started earlier this year and Berry said, when the final figures are tallied, the project may also come in belown budget.
“But we’ll have to see about that later,” he said.
The revitalization work, which is being done in four phases, included the stretch from Richter Street to St. Paul in the fall of 2012, Abbott Street to Pandosy Street in the spring of 2013, last fall’s St. Paul Street to Ellis Street section and the current Ellis Street to Pandosy Street stretch.
Earlier this week, the city announced the underground work on the final portion has been completed and new, wider sidewalks are now being laid.
Once that work is complete, a final layer of paving will be laid down on the roadway, said Berry.
He praised both the contractor for recognizing the need to help keep the area open for shoppers who frequent the businesses affected on Bernard and the businesses themselves for being supportive during what was undoubtedly a tough time finacialy for them. As part of the plan, the road word was stopped during last summer and during Christmas 2012 and 2013.
Heading into the project, several area merchants had expressed concern about the impact the work would have on their businesses but Berry said it appears everything has worked out and there has been little complaint.
He pointed to the city’s communications plan as a major factor for that, especially hiring a liaison officer to work with the merchants to make sure they had all the information they needed, as with the city’s communications team for keeping the message front and centre that the downtown area remained open for business.
The revitalization work has changed the look of Bernard, with wider sidewalks, more street-side patios, improved and artistic lighting, new street furniture and more trees creating what the city says is a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
Berry said while it is unlikely the city will use the same extensive communications process for every construction job it does from now on, the work on Bernard has taught City Hall some valuable lessons, lessons that could be used on its next major construction project, the $8 million replacement of the Lakeshore Drive Bridge and and an upgrade of Lakeshore Drive itself from Cook Road to Lexington Road.
That work is slated to start later this year and has already raised concerns from some businesses located along that route.