Design process could reshape Penticton’s downtown

Vibrant Penticton charrette outlines a number of concepts for city's downtown, including closing the tip of Main Street to vehicles

Many interesting ideas came out of the Vibrant Penticton design charrette last week, adding up to some possible major changes in how Pentictonites see and use the city’s downtown.

That includes everything from far-reaching concepts like closing the tip of Main Street to vehicle traffic — creating a connection and pedestrian space between Gyro and Cenotaph parks — to creating a space for a year-round public market.

All last week, designers, facilitators and city staff worked alongside about 50 stakeholders to develop ideas for revitalizing downtown.

After initial discussion, the team identified four key layers that should be considered in the plan framework — mobility, green, use and form, and character — as well as seven areas of downtown with a unique feel: civic, downtown, uptown, north park, south park, cultural and entertainment.

In contrast to previous attempts to create a revitalization plan for downtown, the design charrette developed some concepts that could be accomplished quickly, along with long-range goals. That, said Coun. Gary Litke, gave him confidence that a workable plan would be developed this time.

“There have been a number of studies done and they are gathering dust on the shelves someplace,” said Litke. “But I am confident through this process that there are a number of opportunities for low hanging fruit.”

“It is that low hanging fruit that we can easily implement now,” said architect Nick Bevanda, co-chair of the downtown revitalization committee. “I am just as excited about those quick items that we can do now as I am about the longer-term items.”

Another key concept that came out of the charrette, according to Anthony Haddad, the city’s director of development services, is that of rebuilding.

“Time and time again we heard that these are the type of things the community wants back in the downtown,” he said, with a list that includes a grocery store, hotel, nightclubs, performing arts theatre, dry cleaner and other amenities.

“How do we attract these uses that have gone missing over the last few years?” Haddad asked. “One of the interesting things about these properties that have now gone vacant is that we have achieved a lot of surface parking lots.”

Haddad said only about 30 per cent of the downtown is covered by buildings. The remainder is either vacant, parking lots, roads or sidewalks.

“There is lots of opportunity for us to build on. Over 50 per cent of the downtown land is available for future activity,” said Haddad.

Co-chair Barb Haynes cautioned that though the charrette generated a lot of ideas, they are still in the planning stage.

“I don’t think, through this process, that we are finished at this point. We have a fabulous foundation and launching point to move forward,” said Haynes.

The next step for the committee is to develop a concrete plan from the information gathered and ideas generated she said, returning it to the public for input in a few months.

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