Shopping downtown Kelowna?

The lower portion of Bernard Avenue was blocked off early Monday morning and will stay that way until June, as the city continues its downtown revitalization project.

The 'main drag' will be closed from Abbott to Pandosy, as part of utility replacement and streetscaping, but the sidewalks will be open, as will the businesses along that stretch.

While most are looking forward to the fresh look of the new street, many are also apprehensive towards how construction will affect business over the short term.

“I think its definitely going to affect business to a certain degree because once people see the barricades, they’re probably just going to turn around and go back the other way or rethink their plans,” says Neil Thacker, manager of Picture Perfect.

He is in favour of the revitalization and likes what has been done in Phase 1 of the project, but while his business is a destination store that doesn’t depend on walk-ins, Thacker knows the situation will still disrupt his store.

“It’s a little bit of an inconvenience because everyone that comes down to us is using the parking as much as possible to drop off artwork to get framed and that sort of thing.  But it’s a necessary evil to be done – once it’s all finished we’ll be happy.”

Chelsea Mcevoy at Moxy Apparel, who is trying to stay optimistic about the whole situation, echoes that sentiment.

“Parking – that’s my biggest concern. We’ve just got to stay creative and stay positive. Hopefully people will just remember that we’re down here and support us,” she says.

Her boss also owns Fusion Clothing next door and plans to combine the two stores together until construction is complete.

“Fusion has a great name in Kelowna, and a great rep and we do have a lot of regulars that come to support us,” notes Mcevoy.

“I’m not too worried, I think we’ll be OK.  And it’s going to be worth it in the long run.”

Other business owners are not as enthusiastic, but understand the situation is out of their hands.

“I think it’s going to be tough throughout the construction,” says Raegan Hall, owner of Blonde clothing.

“And I’m personally bummed out because I don’t like the aesthetic of what they’ve already changed – I think it’s already dated. And disco Vegas lamps in front of Safeway? In 30 years it may look really good when all the trees are grown, but in 30 years, I’m probably not going to be here.”

Another business that is unsure of how construction will affect foot traffic is Ching Li, manager of the popular downtown lunch spot Sai-Gon Restaurant.

“Lunch time is OK because people walk here, but at nighttime when we don’t have the parking spaces, I don’t think people will want to try to get here. But this is the first day, so we will see (what happens).”

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