Connect with us


COVID-19: Vernon considering street closure to bring vitality to downtown during the pandemic

Just like in other Okanagan communities, the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting Vernon, B.C., to rethink some of its outdoor space.

Vernon restaurants are already using sidewalk patios more than they ever did pre-pandemic.

Now, city hall is looking at going further by blocking off two blocks of the city’s main street to vehicle traffic four days a week this summer.

The current proposal is to block off 30 Avenue from 29 Street to 31 Street from Thursday morning to Monday morning each week.

Read more:
Transform Granville strip to a pedestrian and dining zone, says Vancouver city councillor

Councillor Dalvir Nahal suggested the idea.

“I want to see a vibrant downtown,” Nahal said. “I want to see people on the streets eating and enjoying an evening.”

Some businesses believe they would really benefit.

“It gives us a chance to hire more staff back. It generates some more revenues which we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said James Fradley, owner of The Med Restaurant.

The proposal to temporarily close two blocks of 30 Avenue to vehicles is only the latest way Okanagan cities are rethinking outdoor spaces in light of the pandemic.

Read more:
COVID-19 outbreak at Sandalwood Retirement Resort deemed stable, Interior Health says

Mark Holland, community planning professor at Vancouver Island University, believes it’s good that cities are rethinking outdoor space.

“COVID came in as a real challenge and it has really disrupted our cities in many ways, but there is a silver lining in that. Because we had to change what we did, it is causing us to rethink assumptions that we’ve been living with for too long,” Holland said.

Click to play video: Vernon considers partial 30 Ave. closure

“Rethinking what our streets and our sidewalks are used as…could possibly be one of the greatest gifts that we leave with our cities.”

However, Holland said whether pandemic changes are here for the long haul will likely depend on buy-in from businesses and commuter habits.

Holland said in communities where many people continue to work from home post-pandemic there will continue to be an elevated demand for shopping and restaurants after the pandemic.

Where there are stores, restaurants or other commercial businesses that are able to manage outdoor spaces successfully, Holland believes those new initiatives will stick around in the long term.

Read more:
B.C. workers now eligible for three hours of paid leave to get COVID-19 vaccine

Back in Vernon, city councillors will have to decide whether to go ahead with the street closure pilot project, and have been informally canvassing businesses.

“It’s been mixed reviews,” said Nahal.

“For the most part, it’s been positive. The amount of support and emails from the consumers that want to go downtown and support the businesses have been overwhelming. I think the biggest issue, and we have this issue all the time with Vernon, is parking.”

If the Vernon pilot project goes ahead, it could start as early as May 13.

The idea is expected to be back on the city council agenda on May 10.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply


Must See


More in News