Salmon Arm Council voted unanimously to support a Downtown Salmon Arm request to create a pedestrian mall on Alexander Street on Saturdays, despite opposition.
Described as a pilot project, the downtown street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Hudson Avenue to Lakeshore on Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., from July 4 through Sept. 5.
The 10-week project might be extended to Oct. 17 depending on its success, and the closing time could be moved to 3 p.m.
Downtown Salmon Arm (DSA) also asked that alcohol be permitted in the public space.
While most council members at the city’s June 22 meeting appeared to be in favour of allowing liquor, questions about licensing will be researched before a decision is made.
DSA manager Lindsay Wong wrote that Penticton and North Vancouver recently became the first two B.C. municipalities to designate public spaces for drinking.
“We are fortunate to have a variety of locally owned breweries, distilleries and wineries. With the current regulations, our local producers are only able to sample their products but not sell in public spaces. This opportunity would provide the public with an option to purchase a locally crafted beverage to enjoy on Alexander Plaza.” Wong wrote.
Regarding the street closure to vehicles, Coun. Sylvia Lindgren spoke of the many places, in Canada and around the world, which have pedestrian malls and how enjoyable and popular they are.
In a letter to council, Gerald Forman with Shuswap Clothing & Shoe Company wrote of the difficulties of changing business accessibility to customers.
He also said proper consultation was not done by the DSA before approaching the city.
“Tracey (Total Office Supply) and I did ask the affected businesses and there were only 3 in favour of closing, two that did not care either way and the rest were against it…” he wrote.
“I am not sure if council is aware of how long it takes to build a relationship with customers and how one wrong move can send them other places to shop.”
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said it’s important to acknowledge that big events can be obstructive to customers, such as changing usual parking spots. She said the downtown won’t know, however, unless it’s tried.
She emphasized she’d like to see “a robust framework for measuring the results of the pilot project,” and said the DSA has that.
Mayor Alan Harrison would like businesses to look at it as an opportunity.
“It will let people know what a wonderful place our downtown is and they will come back and try it out.”
He said the plan isn’t just shutting down the street, as Downtown Salmon Arm will have lots of activities going on.