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Business owners say lack of parking is killing downtown Kelowna

Owners of some Kelowna businesses say their complaints about lack of parking are being ignored by the city.
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March 11, 2017 - 4:30 PM

"PEOPLE ARE AVOIDING THIS AREA AND IF THEY DON'T COME BACK I WON'T STAY HERE. I CAN'T STAY HERE."

KELOWNA – Parking in downtown Kelowna has gotten so scarce that some businesses have moved and others are threatening to follow.

Fashion Foundations, a downtown staple for decades, recently moved out of the downtown core and now Posh Jewelry across from the new Interior Health building is having to look at other options now as well.

Owner Kate Morgan has been at her current location on Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue for the last seven years. She has been in operation downtown more than 15 years now.

“I’ve seen it go from not a problem to every customer saying something. I used to have three full-time staff now I’m barely busy enough for one person,” she says.

Her customers, she says, spend an average of 15 minutes looking for parking before they give up and go elsewhere.

“I hear it every day.”

Morgan, as well as several other business owners in the area say they have taken their complaints to the Downtown Kelowna Association but are told it’s just the way things are now.

Downtown Association president Peggy Athans denies receiving any complaints but says she understands the frustration.

“They haven’t contacted me,” she says. “I can understand their frustration but how awesome will it be when there are all these new additions to the downtown core?”

The new Interior Health building, which employs around 800 people, is just one of the major downtown projects completed this year.  There is also a new YMCA going in and a Pharmasave. The new Innovation Centre nearby is also nearing completion.

Morgan and others on her block, like Crème hair salon owner Curtis Adams, says they are less excited about having more neighbours.

"The density may be good for walk-by traffic but parking will only get worse," he says. 

And it’s not just the Doyle Avenue area that is being negatively affected.

Michelle Welch owns Raw Athletics on Bernard Avenue near the Sails. She says the problem has gotten noticeably worse in the last couple years.

“People don’t want to come downtown,” she says. “We have customers that say they love the store but they can’t be bothered to deal with the parking. It’s a huge problem.”

She says if the new parkade doesn’t make things better, she is going to have to follow some of the other stores that have already left. The vast majority of spots in the new Memorial Parkade on Ellis Street are reserved during the day for employees of Interior Health with only the same number of spots available to the public as there were before the previous lot on that space was demolished.

“The main thing is (customers) can’t find a spot to park or they found a spot but they have to move their vehicle every two hours,” she says. “They leave. Nobody is going to go to their vehicle, find another spot and come back and continue shopping. They’re going to leave downtown.”

She too says calls to the Downtown Kelowna Association are being downplayed.

“I’ve had a conversation with Peggy (Athans) before,” she says. “I’ve also phoned the city a year ago and complained. I keep on getting the same excuse.”

She says she was told business owners are to blame for the lack of parking.

“Apparently business owners and staff have abused parking and that’s why they instituted the two hour parking limit,” she says. “I think that’s an excuse. Smart business owners don’t let their employees park in front of their stores.”

The bottom line, she says, is that if things don’t improve soon her options are limited.

“People are avoiding this area and if they don’t come back I won’t stay here. I can’t stay here.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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