UPDATE: Monday, Feb. 13, 3:37 p.m.: Council unanimously approved closing the 2900 block of 30th Avenue from July 4 to Sept. 1 to vehicle traffic in order to create a pedestrian plaza.
The city will provide up to $38,000 to buy, install and remove picnic tables, umbrellas, and game tables.
The stage is set for the downtown Vernon block closure to return for a third summer.
City staff are recommending that council support closing the 2900 block of 30th Avenue to vehicle traffic from July 4 to Sept. 1 to create a pedestrian plaza, as was done in 2021 and 2022.
The Downtown Vernon Association (DVA) is requesting $38,000 to purchase, install and remove picnic tables, umbrellas and game tables. The funds would come from the 2021 Prior Year Unexpected Uncommitted Balance reserve.
A report to council states new active and passive programming in 2022 garnered more favourable comments about the block closure from users and businesses. It also helped that the weather was better, as the 2021 summer was mired by smoke from the White Rock Lake Wildfire.
The DVA would officially open the plaza on July 6 with its Downtown Sounds concert.
Administration recommends the city provide a list of resources and furniture enhancements, including city staff time for pre-closure inspection and post-closure repairs.
The city will also need to provide road closure barricades, signage, planters, hanging flower baskets, concrete ping pong and Foosball tables, 10 picnic tables with umbrellas, and a concrete chess/checkers table.
According to a presentation the DVA made to council last month, last year’s pedestrian plaza attracted an estimated 9,000 visitors over 44 days. There were also 64 live performances. One performance was cancelled due to record-setting heat on July 27.
Thursdays saw the highest attendance due to Downtown Sounds, an event that saw crowds ranging from 300 to 650.
Feedback from businesses on the 2022 plaza included 71 per cent saying the plaza was a success and would support again in 2023. Twelve per cent said they experienced some disruption to their business.
The DVA’s pitch to the city includes some changes to this year’s proposed plaza, including shifting events from Monday to Friday to Tuesday to Saturday.
There will also be more engagement with local groups and additions such as bike rides, kids’ story time, Science Centre experiments, art demonstrations and dance troupes. More seating and shade is also part of the vision for this year’s plaza, as is a cooling area at the Towne Theatre, restaurants extending patios into the plaza, and a Saturday marketplace.