Papered up windows and boarded up businesses. They’re the biggest sign of a town in decline.
Downtown Revelstoke businesses are saying that’s what could happen here if a proposed highway shopping centre gets built.
Most businesses on Mackenzie Avenue, First Street and elsewhere, papered up their windows to protest council’s vote on the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre last week.
The developers, Hall Pacific, are hoping to build a strip mall at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North, with a grocery store and pharmacy as anchor tenants.
Now, downtown businesses, who were most vocal against the development, are showing their displeasure at council’s decision by papering up their windows for a day of protest.
“We’re papering our windows to show what our downtown can look like if there’s big development outside downtown,” said Andrea Cochrane, a chef at the Modern Cafe, who helped spearhead the protest. “We’ve spent a lot of time and years bringing people into town. We feel that a huge development could harm people coming into town.”
Businesses taking part included the Modern, Malone’s, Wearabouts, Big Mountain Kitchen & Linen, Revelstoke Florist, Kidz on Main, Carrie’s Home Cafe, Conversations, Garnish, Skookum, Free Spirit Sports, Work n Play, Bette’s Underthings & Clothings, Style Trend, Pharmasave, People’s Pharmacy, Universal Footwear, Your Office & Art Centre, and even Cooper’s Grocery.
The windows were the talk of the town this morning.
Karen Powers, the owner of Conservations, said it was a matter of council not listening to the public.
“If you’re just judging it on the city council meeting that day, then obviously you didn’t listen because they still voted it in without going back and doing more research or bringing it out to the public to persuade otherwise,” she said.
Mike Gravelle, the owner of Skookum, said that while he wasn’t personally worried about the shopping centre, he wanted to show support for his fellow downtown business owners. He wants the development to be done right.
“Is it going to be the best strip mall for community, or is it going to be the worst?” he said. “That’s all I ask for — don’t put a big Berlin Wall. The developers won’t care about the downtown, they want their rent paid.”
Carrie Brunetti at Carrie’s Home Cafe said she gets lots of tourists in her restaurant asking her about stores and services downtown. She said those people won’t come downtown anymore if the shopping centre is built on the highway.
“If that goes into action, we won’t see that,” she said. “We won’t see those people here. It will affect small business.”
Businesses also put up a “letter to citizens” in their windows. The letter says council’s vote runs counter to 30 years of development and investment and other community initiatives. It says strip mall development “never benefits a small town” and that council’s vote doesn’t reflect the written and verbal submissions made at the public hearing.
“We want council to revisit this decision and to make the final decision with appropriate research and input from the people,” the letter states. “We want real representation rather than individual councillor speculation and guesswork. Our future is at stake!”
Businesses have petitions set up and an online one was also launched.
The windows were the talk of the town last week, with a mix of support and opposition shown towards the businesses that took part. Arguments in support were that the shopping centre will hurt Revelstoke’s unique downtown and that council should do more research before moving forward. Arguments against were that Revelstoke needs more choice and competition when it comes to retail, and that goods here are too expensive.
The re-zoning amendment is up for final adoption at this Tuesday’s council meeting.
Mayor Mark Mckee said it would be up to council whether or not they want to hold up final adoption. “Is it giving council an opportunity to reflect on the process of the decision? Sure it is,” he said. “I think people also have to realize that all the time I’ve been on council, this is probably the toughest decision I’ve seen come to a council table.
“This is one of those decisions that council’s not going to make 100 per cent of the community happy, and I hope people realize that.”