KELOWNA — The main street in downtown Kelowna will become a car-free zone this summer as the city tries people power as a way to reanimate a local economy run over by COVID-19.
Vehicles will be barred from Bernard Avenue between the Sails and Bertram Avenue from June 29 through Labour Day, Mayor Colin Basran announced Thursday.
The hope is that many more people will be drawn downtown by the novelty of the street’s vehicle ban, with shoppers ambling from side to side to spend money in shops and restaurants trying to recover from financial losses incurred because of the pandemic.
“This is something that I’m really excited about, as are my council colleagues,” Basran said during an online press conference.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to see us try for a number of years, and I think that this is the perfect opportunity for us to start a trial like this,” Basran said.
The street was chosen because of its high number of businesses, and because the city has experience closing it to vehicles on occasion for special events.
Members of the Downtown Kelowna Association support the unprecedented lengthy shutdown of Bernard Avenue to
traffic, Basran said.
More than 7,300 Kelowna residents have lost their jobs in the past two months, with May’s unemployment rate at 8.1 per cent. But total job losses are even higher, at around 10,000, because a further 3,000 people became unemployed since March but are not even looking for work.
Also during the Thursday press conference, Basran announced the further opening of some city-owned facilities in addition to the tennis courts, pickleball courts, and
skateboard parks that were re-opened last week.
As of Thursday, the list of re-opened facilities includes basketball courts and volleyball courts at City Park.
But playgrounds will likely remain closed for several weeks and there is no current timetable for the re-opening of major indoor facilities like the Parkinson recreation centre.
The doors at City Hall will re-open to the general public on Monday.
However, Basran urged people not to make “non-essential visits” to City Hall and do their municipal business wherever possible online and over the phone.