Monday, April 17, 2017

Kelowna’s Downtown, ideas for Langley City

A few weeks ago, I released a travel survey about how people get to Downtown Langley. Close to 50% of locals walk to Downtown Langley while the vast majority of non-locals drive to Downtown Langley.

The City of Langley has been investing in Downtown Langley, improving sidewalks and public spaces. Our Downtown Master Plan also envisions replacing the current surface parking lots with mixed-use buildings (retail on the ground, offices/housing on the top floors) and public spaces.

Parking, of course, is important for the success of Downtown Langley, so the Downtown Master Plan calls on the construction of parkades.

Downtown Langley is starting to be known as the place where something fun is always happening. There is the McBurney Plaza Summer Series, Arts Alive, Bard in the Valley, Community Day, the Fork & Finger, and many other events that occur in the civic heart of our community. The latest City of Langley Financial Plan includes funding to expand on these free, family-friendly events.

One of the areas where there is currently a gap is positive evening activities in our Downtown core. Bring positive evening events and activities to Downtown Langley is certainly something that I support, and I know that others on City council support as well.

Over the Easter long-weekend, I visited my parents who live in Kelowna. I also stayed in a hotel in Downtown Kelowna for the first time.

I’m from the Okanagan; born in Kelowna and raised in Vernon. My memories of Downtown Kelowna were that of a warn, down-and-out area. The main street, Bernard Avenue, was a four-lane road with parking on the side, and marginal businesses. The place was dead at night. As a teen, my friends and I avoided Downtown Kelowna.

Downtown Kelowna has changed over the last 15 years, the City of Kelowna has been busy investing in their core over that time.

I decided to take some pictures of Downtown Kelowna which show some of the ways that they have transformed their Main Street and Downtown. These pictures show ideas that could be applied to Downtown Langley, and are generally consistent with our Downtown Master Plan.

One of the first things that I wanted to show is the $4 million parkade that the City of Kelowna built. One of the key design features of the parkade is that it has ground-level retail which contributes to the public realm. Without ground-level retail, parkades create dead-zones.

Chapman Parkade in Downtown Kelowna. Select image to enlarge.

Kelowna reduced the lanes on Bernard Avenue to support the creation of sidewalk patios for restaurants and cafes as well as seating areas.

Bernard Avenue in Downtown Kelowna. Select image to enlarge.

Sidewalk patios, and people using street tables and chairs on Bernard Avenue in Downtown Kelowna. Select image to enlarge.

Some of Kelowna’s Downtown alleys have also received makeovers.

An alley in Downtown Kelowna. Select image to enlarge.

With restaurants and cafes staying open later, combined with investments in the public realm that encourage positive activity in the evening, Downtown Kelowna is a happening place even once the sun goes down. The Downtown Kelowna Association has an “After 5pm” program.

Bernard Avenue in Downtown Kelowna at night. Select image to enlarge.

Building a great Downtown requires both investing in the public realm, and programming that public realm with events and activities. The City of Kelowna invests around a quarter of a million dollars on programming including the Festivals Kelowna organization.

While Kelowna has four times the population of Langley City, Langley City is the heart of Langley which has a similar combined population. Some of the things that I saw in Kelowna show what Downtown Langley could look like once our Downtown Master Plan is fully built-out.

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