Just 101 steps.
According to the newly ratified downtown plan, that’s what it will take to revitalize the core of the city.
Barb Haynes, co-chair of the Downtown Penticton Revitalization Select Committee, said that the 101 actions may be more of a pet name, but they now have a clear strategy that can be implemented incrementally to give Penticton’s main commercial district a long-awaited makeover.
“I think moving our primary commercial district, which is the downtown, forward and giving it an opportunity to thrive and survive is a really important piece of this,” said Haynes. “With change comes new thinking, and so my hope is that people will embrace new opportunity and look at this as a chance to get involved in a positive way and give their feedback constructively so we can all grow and develop together.”
Giving the downtown that new and fresh look won’t happen overnight. This is a long-term plan, according to Haynes.
“We’re not going to tear up the downtown and have it in a mess for a long period but plan it strategically and collaboratively,” she said. “We will work with our business community to make sure the downtown is functional in those very busy seasons.”
The plan, the result of a year-and-a-half of work and public input by the revitalization committee, was given first reading by council this week. During the public consultation parts of the process, the committee reached out to some 5,000 people, with more than 1,500 providing feedback.
“This is a celebration, it’s a huge milestone for all of us. A year-and-a-half later, we’ve got it ratified. Now we can take it out to the community and say look at all the hard work,” said Haynes.
Public information sessions will be held at the Saturday market on June 1, 8 and 15 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and an open house will take place within the City Centre foyer (399 Main St.) on June 6 from 4 to 7 p.m.
From there, the plan will return to council for a public hearing on June 17, before being adopted as part of Penticton’s official community plan.
The actions include large-scale projects that will occur over the long term like streetscapes, park space enhancements and Penticton Creek rehabilitation, as well as smaller projects like children’s playground equipment, washrooms, public art and other amenities that will benefit the downtown. It also includes rewriting city policy.
“All of the behind-the-scenes paperwork that needs to happen so that as we create the downtown vision there is an all-encompassing plan that moves us forward,” said Haynes.
“It’s not just about the streets and the sidewalks, but businesses and the buildings need a fresh look as well. Standards have to be created in order for that opportunity to move forward. So when a new developer does come in there is a clear vision as to what our community expects.”
The goal of the plan is to achieve greater usability of the downtown, awareness and enhance business opportunities, according to Haynes, who also hopes it will move people into the downtown from a residential perspective.
“You can spend millions of dollars and it won’t make any difference to the downtown if there is not people living there and walking on the streets,” said Coun. John Vassilaki as he voiced his support for the plan.
Some notable elements of the plan include redesigning the 100 block of Main Street to allow the street to be easily closed to vehicle traffic and integrated with Veterans’ Memorial Park for special occasions. A year-round indoor public market, initially planned for the Ellis Street bus barn, is still included but is not moving ahead as fast as expected.
“That project is on hold for that location. I think there are other opportunities that are also being explored in that location for development. It is certainly a viable space and something we do want to see enhance the Ellis Street corridor as well,” said Haynes. “Potentially the year-round market is still on the list of to do’s.”
Haynes added that the Downtown Penticton Association supports the market concept.
“Potentially the best way to look at it is through private partnership, that business may choose to embark on that in another location or someplace existing in the downtown already,” said