Bernard Avenue in Downtown Kelowna on July 27, 2020. (Aaron Hemens - Black Press Media)

Bernard Avenue in Downtown Kelowna on July 27, 2020. (Aaron Hemens - Black Press Media)

Kelowna council to consider yearly Bernard Avenue closure

The pilot project saw Bernard close to vehicles between July and September this year

A report is going to Kelowna city council next week that could change the way the downtown core looks in the summer on a yearly basis.

After what city staff called a successful pilot project through summer 2020, the city is looking to make the Bernard Avenue road closure an annual event — allowing businesses and pedestrians to again take over Kelowna’s most popular downtown drag.

This past summer, businesses were allowed to expand their patios and operations into the street, allowing for additional seating at a time when indoor seating is restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City staff noted, in a report set to go to council on Monday, Nov. 12, despite the short notice given to businesses for the first go-around between July and September, the overall feedback from the 23 businesses which participated in the patio extension was positive.

“Staff received comment that during the road closure period, the downtown was relatively vibrant, energized and had a positive atmosphere.”

Despite the pandemic, a survey circulated to those businesses showed 88 per cent of them saw financial results that were the same or higher than in 2019. The same percentage indicated a willingness to participate in the program again in future years.

A man and a young boy stopped on their bikes at the intersection of Bernard Avenue and Water Street on Monday, June 29. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

A man and a young boy stopped on their bikes at the intersection of Bernard Avenue and Water Street on Monday, June 29. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Pedestrians also seemed to love the extra space.

The report noted pedestrian volumes went up 88 per cent compared to 2019’s expected counts at the intersection of Bernard Avenue and Mill Street. And, around 10 per cent of that activity was comprised of bikes, skateboards and rollerblades.

Several city staff members engaged in a study through July and August, observing the goings-on to see how the public was using the open space.

Among their findings was the “park-like atmosphere” that encompassed the street, greater utilization of street furniture and the creation of a seamless transition between Bernard Avenue and nearby parks.

According to a Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) survey put out to its members, businesses on and off Bernard Avenue showed overwhelming support for the closure to happen again.

However, in a letter of support, DKA executive director Mark Burley noted that businesses — particularly in the 400 and 500 blocks of Bernard — felt the city did not do enough consultation prior to the closure.

“This resulted in what is felt was a lack of traffic in these two blocks.”

Consultation with those businesses is necessary prior to committing to close the blocks again in the coming years, the DKA stated.

To remedy this, staff have proposed turning the 400 and 500 blocks of Bernard into a demonstration “Green Street” — a space which would see businesses reap the same expanded-patio benefits as they did this year while adding some additional flair to draw people to the area. That space would consist of parklets, murals, public art, pianos, bike racks and busking stops, and the city’s events team would work to host COVID-compliant programming in the area. The 200 and 300 blocks would remain the same as they did this year.

“Throughout the world, cities and towns are taking their parks to the streets, as a result of greater constraints in urban environments. COVID-19 has accelerated and emphasized the need for streetscapes and laneways to function beyond the requirements of the automobile.”

READ MORE: ‘Lack of intelligence’: Kelowna mayor condemns anti-pandemic vandalism on city hall

READ MORE: Motorcycle noise violations upsetting to Kelowna resident

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

City of Kelowna

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

The District of Sicamous is trying to take over management of the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre . (File Photo)
District of Sicamous seeks management contract for hockey arena

The arena has been managed by a non-profit society since it was built in the early 1980s.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

Most Read