Block Party 13

A closed-off portion of Bernard Avenue, created for a 'Block Party', is shown in this 2016 file pic. City council will be asked Monday to endorse an unprecedented summer-long shutdown of the downtown street to create a unique pedestrian-only zone.

Turning Bernard Avenue into a pedestrian-only zone this summer will result in the loss of 113 downtown parking stalls and cut the city's parking revenue by $42,000.

But the reductions are worth it, city staff say, given the project's potential to draw many people downtown and help restaurants and stores recover from pandemic-related financial losses.

The Bernard Avenue vehicle ban, expected to win council's approval on Monday, would extend from the Sails sculpture to St. Paul Street and be in effect from the end of June through the Labour Day weekend.

There are 106 businesses along both sides of Bernard in this stretch. The organization that represents them, the Downtown Kelowna Association, supports the unprecedented summertime closure of the street to vehicles.

"We are hopeful that this will help increase Kelowna's downtown pedestrian traffic while alleviating sidewalk crowding," Mark Burley, DKA president, writes in a letter to the city.

Thirty of the 106 Bernard Avenue businesses, mostly restaurants, already have permission for some kind of outdoor patio. The plan going to council for approal on Monday would allow them to greatly increase their patios, out onto the vehicle lanes of Bernard Avenue.

In addition to the existing sidewalks, two three-metre wide pedestrian walking corridors would be created down the middle of Bernard. Each would be for one-way walking, to facilitate physical distancing.

The city also plans to create a task force to study the ways in which other municipally-owned properties - such as plazas, parks, and other streets - could be opened up to more patio use by adjacent businesses.