With the turn of a key on an excavator, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray officially launched the Bernard Avenue Revitalization Project.
"Today, Bernard Avenue starts its transformation from a road to a destination. The investment by Bernard Avenue property owners and the city will see Kelowna's main street become the centre piece of downtown - the heart of the city," says Gray.
"So, we are starting to perform a heart transplant here on Bernard."
The $14M revitalization is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2014, although a substantial amount of the project is slated to be done by the end of 2013.
"The public inconvenience won't be as noticeable through the winter and spring of 2014. All of the 'heavy lifting' will have been done already," says Gray
"Then they'll be more into the cosmetic 'glitz' of the project."
Part of the 'glitz' is an archway to be constructed at Bernard and Richter to welcome visitors to downtown.
The archway was announced by Gray Wednesday morning.
"I have not seen the pictures of what the arch will look like so I will have to use my imagination for now. By doing it that way, then at the end, I will be very impressed."
While construction goes on, both Mayor Gray and Downtown Kelowna President, Dallas Gray made sure to drive home the point that Bernard Avenue is open for business.
"You could use the cliche' short term pain for long term gain, but I think the community will rally - the community will salute downtown business owners and property owners for the courage to, essentially, make it more difficult to get to their business," says Mayor Gray.
"I can assure you the city has gone to great lengths to make the inconvenience as limited as possible."
In an effort to ensure the project is complete on time, construction crews will be working 18 hours a day (6 a.m. to midnight) six days a week.
The mayor adds it's a project whose time has come.
"For me personally having grown up in Kelowna when the city was only 4,700 people and eight square miles, Bernard Avenue was Kelowna. This is an opportunity to re-define what is Kelowna."