In a petition circulated by the City of Vernon, 81 per cent of property owners said they would support funding the two-million-dollar project. But in most cases, property owners are not the actual businesses operating there. On Nov. 7, both businesses and property owners within the project area were invited to meet the project team and learn more about the design process. About 30 businesses were represented at the closed-door meeting.
Some of the area's business owners told InfoTel News the project's side-effects are not worth the outcome. In informal interviews, six of seven business owners said they were concerned about losing revenue during the construction phase and, for some, being forced to relocate if business takes too sharp a nosedive.
Some also worry that traffic on the new two-lane street will become overly congested when taxis, garbage and recycling trucks, ambulances and fire trucks stop on the side of the road. Some owners suggested new parking would be a more valuable investment than wider sidewalks. Others appreciate the project's long-term vision, and trust that the city will aid them in surviving the construction period.
Mark Dowhaniuk, the City of Vernon's infrastructure engineer, said the design team wishes to "have an open dialogue with businesses and property owners [throughout the process.]"
The project will reduce the roadway to two lanes of traffic from four to allow for wider sidewalks. It will also bring utility improvements, new trees and street furniture in the area between 33rd and 35th Streets on 30th Ave. Property owners will provide $250,000 for streetscape improvements such as benches, brickwork and twinkle lights. The city will cover costs for asphalt and improvements to water and septic systems.
Construction is expected to run from March to the end of June or July.
“All businesses will remain open during the construction phase,” said Dowhaniuk.
The City chose Focus Corporation and Outland Design to lead the design of the project after just completing the design for the $14 million Bernard Avenue Revitalization still under construction in Kelowna. Dowhaniuk said the design team will "build on the experience in Kelowna."
The project is the final phase in transforming Vernon’s Main Street. “We want to respect and learn from the phases that came before and improve upon them,” said Dowhaniuk.
There will be another meeting after the Christmas holidays to review the design concept with property and business owners.
— Charlotte Helston