Construction workers not only ones "digging it downtown"

Betty Lou Boutique is one of the affected businesses. Owner Diane Rowland is optimistic about the long term benefits of revitalization.

By Charlotte Helston

Measures are being taken to ensure a downtown construction zone is also an appealing shopping destination.

The two blocks on 30th Avenue between 33rd and 35th Street are getting revitalized, and before they look polished, things are going to get a little messy.  Roads and sidewalks will be ripped up, but through a coordinated effort between the shopkeepers, the city and the Downtown Vernon Association, businesses will remain open.

DVA executive director Louise Delaney describes a variety of strategies being used to boost business during the construction phase.

"It revolves around expecting the unexpected," Delaney says. "You might get a five dollar coupon while taking your girlfriend out for lunch, or you could be entered to win a draw for a shopping spree. We're putting on activities that will funnel people down that way to keep businesses thriving."

A variety of different events will keep shoppers on their toes during the three months of construction expected to start March 25 and wrap up by the end of June.

"We'll have crazy things like yarn-bombing around the construction site," Delaney says. The group of knitters will weave brightly coloured yarn throughout the area in April to coincide with Arts and Culture week. "We got permission from the construction company," Delaney adds.

The theme for the downtown experience this year is "Digging it Downtown" a play on words that reflects the DVA's make the most of it attitude.

Delaney says a big customer base for the project area is all the employees who work and dine downtown. "Some of our city's largest employers are are downtown, we want to make sure their employees continue going to the restaurants in the construction area."

Foot traffic will at no time be restricted. During the first portion of the construction, sidewalks will be open to the public as utility work is done on the road. Later, when the sidewalks are getting a facelift, pedestrians will be able to use the middle of 30th Avenue. Safe routes to businesses will be available for the duration of the project.

Right off the bat, however, vehicles will be halted from travelling past 33rd Street. Detours will guide drivers along alternate roads until the project is completed.

Delaney says businesses have been thinking of their own ways to go with the work flow.

"Some restaurants have buffed up their catering orders, knowing in-restaurant dining might be a little slow," she says. "If we're all pushing toward the same means, it should work out."

"We all want to keep downtown alive, during this project, and after."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230.

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