KELOWNA – Yesterday's official opening of the Rutland bus exchange brings the community a step closer to realizing its goal of becoming a major urban destination.
Instead of a place where people pass through via Highway 33, local businesses want to see it become a hub where locals, UBCO students and Big White visitors will stop, shop and play. Live entertainment, music festivals and a farmers market are a few things the Uptown Rutland Business Association is dreaming of.
The new bus exchange is just one piece of the puzzle, says association executive director Laurel D'Andrea. Greater investment and attention from Kelowna city planners is still needed to make Rutland as much a destination as downtown or the Mission, she says.
“The city is well aware of our needs,” she says, which includes improving the aesthetic of Plaza 33, Willow Park Shopping Centre and their surrounding roads.
“We will be going to the table and asking for support financially as well as time from city officials to help us.”
There's no question the historic neighbourhood, once beyond Kelowna's city limits, faces some unique challenges.
“It's really hard to define our city centre in Rutland because we have a highway going right through it,” D'Andrea says. But that's also part of their identity - something the association is trying to brand with the help of fourth year marketing students at UBC Okanagan.
From its roots as one of the valley's first agricultural communities to its distinctive landscape, residents have a lot to take pride in.
“We're trying to put a more modern spin on it, so the younger generations coming up have a sense of pride in this area,” she says. Part of that target demographic includes university students, who they expect to see more of with the improved transit connections.
There's no intention to mimic downtown Kelowna, D'Andrea says, but locals shouldn't feel they need to leave Rutland to have a fun night out. New music festivals, summer car shows and a Thursday evening farmers' market are part of the plan to make the Rutland town centre a meeting place for locals.
"So they can get off work and catch a little bit of entertainment and then do some shopping from local artisans and farmers," D'Andrea says.
Rutland pride will be on full display this Sunday for the Scarecrow Festival, she says. Over 3,500 are expected to come together for the fall harvest while building 160 handcrafted scarecrows. It's free to attend and will bring food trucks, a farmers' market, face painting, music, crafting and more to the Rutland Lions Park behind the Coopers supermarket.
It's an event that will showcase the community's potential, D'Andrea says.
"We want people to embrace what we have here - we have some of the friendliest people in Rutland."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.