Kerri Milton says there are lots of voices out there in support of a plan to refresh sections of Martin Street and Westminster Ave.
“The revitalization plan is something that we have worked with individuals and businesses to get their thoughts and feedback,” said the executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association. Milton adds that she, along with Anthony Haddad, Penticton’s director of development services, have met with every property owner and got a positive response to the plan.
Other than Philip Locke, she admits. Locke, who owns property on Martin Street, has been a vocal opponent of the planned revitalization, which he doesn’t expect will bring about the desired result of attracting more people.
“It’s beautification, not revitalization. This beautification won’t bring an extra person downtown just because they have trees planted,” said Locke.
“Martin Street and Westminster was chosen because it is a doable project. It would show a huge positive change, it was something we could do in the short term that would really show what could happen,” said Milton.
The $1.25-million project includes streetscape improvements for the 200-block of Martin Street and Westminster Avenue from Main to Winnipeg. Sidewalks will be replaced with decorative pavers and new street furniture, lighting and trees will be added.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing for the street. Martin Street probably hasn’t been touched in about 30 years or longer,” said Duane Jordan, owner of the Best Damn Sports Bar and the Pasta Factory.
“It’s a main entrance to downtown from the north side and right now it’s just a disaster,” said Jordan. With the new theatre complex, restaurants, and other amenities, he feels there is a need to make the street itself more people-friendly.
“It creates a better people space. Right now the lighting here is awful, the sidewalk is awful, there is no streetscape,” said Jordan. “We’re calling this the entertainment district and we are not making it inviting.”
Making the area inviting is what it is all about, Milton said, countering Locke’s concerns that the planned beautification won’t result in increased numbers of people coming to the area.
“The more vibrant and welcoming we make it, it encourages more residents, which is the higher density Mr. Locke is speaking of. We all agree that needs to happen. It’s part of the downtown plan to encourage more density,” said Milton. “Showing pride in your community also helps economic activity by boosting the area and filling it with people.”
Locke’s other con cern was the installation of flex parking along Martin Street, which he worries will reduce the number of on-street parking spots in front of his properties. Flex parking will allow landowners or tenants to convert parking spots directly in front of their building to spaces for street cafes or other uses.
Milton contends that while there may be some loss of parking directly in front of businesses, Martin Street is not short on parking; there are several lots nearby, including a large one where the Safeway store was previously located.
“We have seen first hand what positive things can happen if we work as a community,” said Milton. “There are many areas of the downtown that need attention and care. Martin Street, being neglected for many years, is top of the list.”