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No way for two way streets

Don't expect to see two way traffic flowing again on Lawrence and Leon avenues in downtown Kelowna any time soon - if at all.

With revitalization efforts all but complete on and around Bernard Avenue, the focus of the Downtown Kelowna Association and the city is now turning to the revitalization of the city's downtown sore spots on Lawrence and Leon.

While returning two way traffic to the two streets has long been near the top of the list when it comes to revitalization, DKA Executive Director, Peggy Athans, says that's changing.

"There are some big projects that need to be tackled. The big question is whether or not we do want to two way Leon and Lawrence," says Athans.

"That's the one we get hung up on because it's such a big ticket item and there are issues with the bridge and the ministry to do that."

The City's Downtown Plan mentions looking at making the two streets two way, however, Athans says the DKA and its board are leaning away from the idea.

"We have to make up our mind because they (city) are not going to do streetscaping. They are not going to do a lot of the initiatives we want if they are going to tear up the street," says Athans.

On top of that, Athans says changing the flow of traffic is an expensive proposition and one that will cost the downtown a lot of much needed parking spaces.

Councillor Luke Stack, the City's representative on the DKA board agrees.

"I've been encouraging the DKA to reconsider rather than reverse them....put a new emphasis on sidewalk upgrades and lighting upgrades and improving it in much simpler ways," says Stack.

"Changing to two way does two things. First, it's very expensive and that means it doesn't make it to the top of the list. Second, we are going to lose a bunch of parking again which is a concern."

Stack says it's time to rethink how to improve those streets.

While improvements to sidewalks and lighting and the ever popular flower baskets are one way to help with revitalization, both Stack and Athans agree change is already starting to occur.

"If you analyze it, it's already starting to come back and Lawrence is actually doing okay. It has the gorgeous new FH and P Lawyer building. You have the MMM Group in there, Troika is putting a new building in on Leon and we had the Bertram and Leon upgrade with that new building at the Streaming Cafe."

It's not like nothing is happening, added Athans.

"There are things that are happening that are very encouraging."

Stack believes with a little more focus, things can move along.

He says the seeds are already in the ground for the start of rejuvenation.

"There are probably two or three blocks that need some attention to make them feel more welcoming and safe," adds Stack.

"We have that old A and B Sound building and that's a bit of a dead spot. We have a few blocks that are dead and mostly they are dead because we have vacant buildings."

The process of discussing change has already begun.

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