Kelowna councillor and acting mayor Luke Stack crosses Bernard Avenue, Abbey Road-style, on Tuesday. The downtown Kelowna street was named one of four finalists in a contest aimed at identifying Canada's Greatest Street.
The main shopping street in the city's downtown is up against roads in Edmonton (104th Street Promenade), Goderich, Ont. (Courthouse Square), and Lacombe, Alta. (Historic Main Street), in a contest sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Planners.
"That's excellent news, I'm very pleased," acting Kelowna mayor Luke Stack said Tuesday. "It's a great recognition for the work we've been doing on Bernard, with the wider sidewalks, outdoor cafes, and street amenities."
If Kelowna were to come out on top when the Institute names the winning street on Nov. 8, World Town Planning Day, it could yield significant economic benefits, Stack said.
"It would be very helpful from a tourism point of view," he said. "I hear people saying all the time when I'm down there how amazing Bernard is. It would be great if even more people knew."
After the online contest started earlier this year, more than 100,000 votes were cast for 68 different streets, neighbourhoods, and public spaces.
Kelowna was initially far off the radar, with just 10 votes by mid-August. That was far behind many other nominations, such as the Farmer's Market, held every Saturday along Penticton's Main Street, which had 1,780 votes at that point.
But promotion of the contest by Mayor Walter Gray, and coverage in local media, helped push Bernard Avenue's vote total past 1,000 in just a week. It was, however, still nowhere near the top contenders in terms of votes.
In selecting the four finalists, judges at the Institute of Planners were not guided only by the number of votes cast for each nomination. "The expert opinion of a panel of professional planners" was also enlisted, said Jacklyn Nielsen, co-ordinator of outreach for the institute.
Bernard Avenue is undergoing a $14-million renovation, triggered by the need to replace underground utility lines. The work includes much wider sidewalks, narrower traffic lanes, new trees and plantings, street furniture, and large metal poles intended to serve a "place-making" function for Bernard, identifying it as Kelowna's most distinctive street.
Told of the possibility of Bernard being named Canada's greatest street, downtown pedestrians
expressed both curiosity and pride.
"It's nice, but I don't know about it being the best-looking street
in the country," said Roland Driediger.
But Helen Kerr said: "This is a lot better than it was, no question. Our visitors this summer were really
going on about how it's improved so much."
Kamel Abougoush, owner of the Grateful Fed at the corner of Bernard and Ellis, said the contest should be taken for what it is, an
informal bit of fun that gets people talking and helps build some civic pride:
"With its location right on Okanagan Lake, I don't think there's any question Bernard is one of Canada's greatest streets . . . It's certainly nicer than anything in Edmonton."