$2 million pricetag for downtown revitalization

Revitalizing Penticton’s downtown is going to come at a price, starting with more than $2 million in upgrades.

Revitalizing Penticton’s downtown is going to come at a price, starting with more than $2 million in upgrades for half of the 100 block of Main Street.

Details, however, of the final cost and date to start turning the street into a part-time park will not be known until later this year.

“All the details of what that park will be in terms of cost and funding will come back through the 2015 budget process,” said Anthony Haddad, director of planning.

Penticton city council voted Monday to move ahead with the local area improvement process, that, if ratified by the landowners in the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street, will see that area upgraded in four phases.

The first, though, to receive attention will be the North Park, the name given to the plan to create a continuous space between Gyro Park and the Veteran’s Memorial park.

According Haddad, two options were considered for the North Park: either close off Main Street entirely through that space, or set up a system making temporary closures easier.

In the end, he told council, they went with a hybrid approach, leaving the street open to traffic most of the time but adding some of the improvements from the full closure concept, like a throughway connecting Main and Martin allowing for diversion of traffic when the street is closed, and bringing the road level up to the same level as the parks on either side.

If the plan goes ahead, landowners in the area will be expected to contribute 25 per cent of the costs of improvements in front of their properties, following the same pattern established for the recently completed upgrades to Martin Street and Westminster Avenue.

The landowners’ portion of the costs for that first stage of revitalization, Haddad said, came in under budget with the owners’ portion at $262,500 rather than the expected $297,000, which will be collected via a tax contribution over the course of 15 years.

One of the more contentious areas of the first concepts for Main Street upgrades was a plan to reduce traffic to two lanes in order to open up more sidewalk space. That, Haddad said, has made it into the final concept but with modifications he said will alleviate concerns about gridlock caused by drivers turning at Westminster Avenue.

Rather than staying two lanes all the way down Main, the new concept shows the street widening back to three lanes just before the Westminster intersection. According to Haddad, the new plan will allow for the same turning procedures and traffic flow that currently exists.

The next step, he explained, is up to the property owners.

“The local area petition process will need to commence and be completed prior to the 2015 budget process so that council can determine whether or not to proceed with funding all, a portion or none of the project, depending on the results of the landowner petition process.

“It is exactly the same process we went through on Martin Street,” said Haddad. Each of the property owners will be sent a letter outlining the costs and the process they need to follow if they wish to petition against the project.

For the project to fail there will need to be greater than 50 per cent of the parcels in the area and representing greater than 50 per cent of the assessed value of properties in the project area.

Haddad expects the 30-day period for property owners to petition against the project to start in mid-October.

“We will be making sure that over the next few days we will get the letters out,” he said.