Penticton downtown projects selected for improvements

City of Penticton implementing the first of a number of improvement projects planned for the coming years.

Co-chair Barb Haynes of the Downtown Revitalization Select Committee looks over the plans that went out to the public in May.

Co-chair Barb Haynes of the Downtown Revitalization Select Committee looks over the plans that went out to the public in May.

Now the downtown revitalization is part of Penticton’s official community plan, the city is setting to work implementing the first of a number of improvement projects planned for the coming years.

The city has already earmarked $1.25 million to upgrade Martin Street and a few blocks along Westminster Avenue where the two cross. Besides enhancing to the western entrance to the downtown core and Martin Street entertainment district, this project was selected to help build momentum and excitement about the downtown revitalization, according to Anthony Haddad, the city’s director of development services.

“Enhancements are simple but have a significant impact over what exists today in this area of the downtown,” said Haddad. The enhancement includes new trees, street furniture, decorative street lighting and new sidewalk, made from decorative pavers that will extend into the parking areas along the 200 block of Martin, to create what Haddad calls a flex parking area.

The concept is to let business owners make better use of the space in front of their buildings. Posts marking off the parking areas can be shifted to allow room for sidewalk cafes, outdoor sales or other activities.

“Martin Street is currently the fastest route to exit the downtown core. It is not a desirable or comfortable place to walk,” said Haddad. “The esthetic of Martin Street will be significantly improved with the enhancements of the flex space.”

The city expects to recover about $300,000 of the $1,249,533 estimated cost of the project from property owners in the affected areas, charging them 25 per cent of the cost of the above-ground beautification works, from curb to property line, with a 15-year payback plan.

Haddad said the proposal and funding formula has been greeted well by the majority of the property owners approached. But Philip Locke, a property owner along Martin Street, let his views be known when council adopted the downtown plan at their June 17 meeting.

“Downtown is as beautiful as any shopping centre I have been to. I don’t know why you would want to spend millions of dollars in this time of restraint, when that isn’t even the problem,” said Locke. “I’ve just finished paying for the last one. Now you are going to ask me to pay for the new one.”

Locke and any other property owners opposed to the project will have a 30-day window to join in a petition to stop it, which would require 50 per cent of the property owners and 50 per cent of the assessed value to reject it.

While the city can upgrade the street esthetics, Haddad said they are looking at incentives to encourage business owners to do the same and upgrade their facades to match.

“It is difficult to require private owners to upgrade their buildings,” said Haddad. “We have heard from a lot of property owners who are interested in incentives that will help move them over the line to get facade improvements done.”