Many plans for downtown have been created over the years, but not all have resulted in action.
One such study was the “Cultural Tourism District Plan” prepared by CTQ consulting. It presented a plan to transform Ellis Street into a “cultural corridor”, anchored by the art gallery at the north end and the performing arts theatre at the south end. It included restoration of Penticton Creek and mixed use development overlooking the rushing water.
The report was firmly shelved by a previous council as being impractical at the time.
Last week, a citizens’ charrette consisting of many community stakeholders, dedicated to improving and enriching our downtown core, put that vision back into the limelight.
In fact, artist’s renderings of the proposed precinct elicited much excitement from participants.
Ellis Street is a gem waiting to be discovered. Largely undeveloped, it commands a spectacular view of Okanagan Lake which must be preserved. Ellis connects colourful Front Street and features Penticton Creek which, in itself, has huge potential.
In every great water city of the world, from Venice to Amsterdam, from San Antonio to Vancouver, development faces the water. But in Penticton, buildings still turn their backsides to Penticton Creek. The engineered concrete bottom of the creek is now becoming structurally suspect, so attention will be required. As part of the necessary work, why not naturalize the creek bed, create linear parks along the water’s edge, and build a unique neighbourhood along its banks?
The creation of a cultural neighbourhood around a restored creek would attract the rapidly growing cultural tourism industry, those individuals looking for enriching experiences accompanied by good food and wine. It would provide a natural home for artists and artisans, galleries and kiosks, for a hotbed of creativity.
The charrette recognized and endorsed this vision, but also realized the need for incremental and practical progress.
The first step will be to bring attention to Ellis by opening a Granville-style marketplace in the old bus barn and connect it to downtown with a pedestrian bridge across the creek. The downtown business association will take the lead, ensuring that it is fiscally viable. Next will be street improvements and attention to the creek. The rest of the vision will follow.
Congratulations to those who worked so hard on the charrette last week. Ellis Street was just one of many projects identified which will bring vibrancy to Penticton’s downtown.
Coun. Garry Litke