Revelstoke’s Recovery Task Force has proposed a phased approach to supporting the downtown economy.
Phase 1 will be communicating with businesses that fees have been waived for using sidewalks in front of businesses for extended seating, waiting areas or other uses.
During their research into the potential closure of Mackenzie Ave. to traffic, the task force found that many businesses were not aware of the waived fees.
Phase 2 will include a pilot program for parklets, which would allow businesses to use the parking spaces in front of their location to develop seating, waiting or display areas.
Once businesses have fully explored all their options Phase 3 would pilot the closure of Mackenzie Ave. to traffic from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings from mid-July to the end of August.
The task force started researching the potential closure of Mackenzie Ave. after a recommendation from council.
During their research they received 14 letters in favour of closures and four letters against, which sighted unfairness to businesses outside the downtown core, parking shortage and that it wouldn’t be good for retail businesses among other reasons.
The task force also phoned and visited most businesses in the proposed closure area. Of the 26 businesses, more were against the closure than for it.
Ten were in favour of the proposal, though several said their support is dependent on the impact to neighbouring businesses. Four were undecided and 12 were opposed.
Businesses opposed said they rely on vehicle access for freight, which in some cases can only come through the front door.
Others said sidewalk sales and market days kill their business.
And several expressed concern over parking and access.
The task force also looked at other municipalities, such as Banff and Whistler, and found visitor density coupled with parking capacity are key to successful street closures.
Another key to success is programming in the spaces to create density, such as music, performances, art and markets.
Creating ambience such as signage, lighting and street furniture would need to be part of the long term strategy for a street closure to be successful.
Other municipalities such as Victoria and Kelowna have proposed closing streets to traffic so businesses can expand, due to COVID-19 concerns.