It turns out a simple white light canopy isn’t good enough for the revitalization of Main Street’s 100 block, at least according to Penticton City Council.
During their regular meeting Monday, council voted 4-3 to add $125,000 to the revitalization project in order to upgrade the planned $398,000 light canopy to an enhanced light and controller system that features both white and a range of programmed coloured light patterns.
A light canopy is a system of lights, in this case LED, arranged in an arch over the street, providing soft lighting for evening events. This canopy is expected to grace both the final portion of Main Street, next to Gyro Park, as well as over the new connecter street planned between Main and Martin. Director of Operations Mitch Moroziuk said the life span of the lights is about 10 years, and the supporting poles and infrastructure would last longer than that.
Coun. Helena Konanz objected to purchasing any form of light canopy, saying the city already had a natural canopy.
“We actually have stars and we aren’t going to be able to see them,” said Konanz, who was concerned the canopy was too costly. “As we go through the budget process, we have staff telling us our infrastructure is crumbling. We will be fortunate if we can complete the revitalization.”
Coun. Campbell Watt, on the other hand, said the point of the project was to create a focus and a wow factor in the city.
“This is the ultimate way to enhance that wow factor. It gives something our city is in dire need of. Something that is really explosive and exciting,” said Watt.
Other supporters said the light canopy could be an important tourist draw.
“We installed lighting into all the trees down on the beach at Barefoot and the immediate response from our guests was incredible. It fills everybody with a sense of wonderment and awe,” said Coun. Max Picton. “Once you have seen it and watched someone experience it, you could only imagine what it would do on a much larger, grand scale.”
“I think it will be an attraction,” said Coun. Tarik Sayeed, referencing the Fremont Street light show in Las Vegas. “It became an attraction. I am hoping this one will be as well.”
Sayeed also argued the light display could be seen as an inclusive addition. Along with the Canada flag and finish lines Moroziuk demonstrated in a video, the lights could be used to form a rainbow banner for the LGBT community, flags honouring foreign dignitaries or other celebrations.
“There are tons of things we could do with this kind of colourful lighting,” said Sayeed.
Coun. André Martin questioned how often the canopy would be used, considering that, for driver safety, it won’t be in operation when the street is open to traffic.
“How many events a year are we going to be using this for?” asked Martin, who jokingly suggested that if Penticton really wants a wow factor, a laser light show covering the whole city should be considered.
Watt argued that it didn’t matter how many evening events the city currently had, more could — and would, he said — be added to take advantage of the light canopy.
The $125,000 upgrade passed by a single vote, with Couns. Martin and Konanz opposed, along with Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
Jakubeit said council is committed to downtown revitalization, but the city was already going over and above the initial pitch.
“The canopy is important. Putting multiple colours in it isn’t as important,” said Jakubeit, adding that the city could spend the $125,000 better. “I would much rather see advancements in the SS Sicamous master plan. We can quickly figure out a list of ways to spend it.”