Kelowna gearing up for 'Meet me on Bernard' this summer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna gearing up for 'Meet me on Bernard' this summer

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
March 12, 2021 - 3:39 PM

After the highly successful closure to vehicles of Kelowna’s main downtown street last summer, plans will be unveiled Monday to make it even better this year.

Last summer’s partial closure of four blocks of Bernard Avenue was triggered by COVID-19 restrictions that dramatically cut seating capacity of bars and restaurants.

Closing the street to traffic allowed some businesses to expand outdoor patios and boost their seating capacity.

It worked great for the two blocks closest to Okanagan Lake because there are lots of eateries there. But the 400 and 500 blocks didn’t fare so well.

“Retail businesses expressed that it was difficult to participate in a patio-oriented program primarily due to the additional staff-related expenses associated with it,” states a report going to council Monday, March 15. “The resulting ‘empty space’ was not conducive to the intended vibrant, bustling atmosphere, and it highlighted the need for additional programming and animation to better utilize the space and provide community benefit.”

The report shows how that can change this summer with a program called Meet me on Bernard and with the help of an extra $50,000 in cash.

“The program will transform Bernard Avenue, Kelowna’s popular main street, from a vehicular corridor to an urban park, allowing pedestrians to move freely through the downtown core, explore local shops and restaurants and enjoy a variety of fun activities,” the report says.

Already, nine landscape architects and architectural firms have shown an interest in creating “parklets” in the two blocks. These are meant to be safe, vandal resistant mini-parks the size of a parking stall.

Other groups are looking into arranging live music and other performances, COVID-19 restrictions permitting.

There will be spaces for “pop up” business meant to complement those on the street as well as food vendors.

Local artists are being encouraged to set up art exhibits while games such as ping pong, chess, checkers and basketball will be offered.

Picnic tables, benches and shade trees will add ambiance.

The City has set aside $53,000 in this year’s budget for the program, $20,000 of which is expected to be recovered from patio rental fees.

City staff are asking for another $50,000 but will apply for grants and look for corporate sponsors in an effort to offset the extra money.

If successful, the idea is to have these two blocks close every summer on an annual basis. Last year council agreed to close the 200 and 300 blocks of Bernard Avenue every summer but reserved judgement on the 400 and 500 blocks.

A survey of business operators in the 400 and 500 blocks found most were supportive but some had concerns about deliveries as last year some companies would not walk down the block to deliver. City staff are looking at ways to make such deliveries more viable.

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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