Whitehorse Daily Star

Town square idea to get further study

City council has passed a motion by Coun. Ted Laking to look at closing a portion of Main Street in the summer months to create a town square for pedestrian use only.

By Chuck Tobin on January 20, 2023

City council has passed a motion by Coun. Ted Laking to look at closing a portion of Main Street in the summer months to create a town square for pedestrian use only.

Laking presented the motion at council’s meeting on Monday.

After a few “friendly amendments” to the wording, it passed unanimously.

The motion points out innovative initiatives like the city’s pop-up patio program have been developed locally in recent years to help provide economic opportunities.

Other cities across Canada and North America and Europe are exploring the concepts of pedestrian streets either on a permanent or seasonal basis to facilitate the addition of vibrancy to the downtown core, reads the motion.

It says some cities have had pedestrian-only streets for many years now.

A study by the City of Toronto discovered that during the summer of 2021, the expansion of curbside patios generated nearly 50 times more revenue for local businesses compared to the lost revenue from eliminating parking spots, says the motion.

It says council’s strategic priorities call on a review of opportunities to enhance the downtown core, reflecting its place as the centre of the capital city.

The motion initially directed administration to return to council with a proposal and analysis on developing a one-year pilot project to convert Main Street between Front Street and Second Avenue into a pedestrian town square during June, July and August.

Council, however, accepted the amendment to remove the word proposal, and to direct administration to first conduct an analysis of the concept and return to council with its findings.

Developing a proposal for the town square would come after the analysis that will assist council in determining if the city should move forward with the concept or not, it was noted by council members during the lengthy discussion on the motion.

The motion directs administration to develop the analysis based on consultation with the business community, the arts and culture community and other organizations.

The motion says the analysis should include consideration such as:

The ability of existing businesses to extend and expand their operations and patios;

Potential partnership with the arts and/or music community to facilitate regular outdoor music opportunities;

Temporary additions of picnic tables, greenery, and umbrellas; and

Analysis be conducted on how to better promote and utilize the several city parking lots in the downtown core for the public to supplement the lost parking spaces.

If this proposal were to move forward, a report would be developed by administration after the conclusion of the town square pilot project to inform council and the community on the impacts, successes, and challenges resulting from the pilot project.

It was suggested during the meeting that, should the pilot project be successful, it may encourage the return of the Rendezvous winter festival to Main Street.

Councillors took their turns voicing support for the motion and its intent.

Mayor Laura Cabott noted there are a couple of issues that need to be considered. Examples are the existence of accessible parking stalls on the block, as well as stalls to provide parking for commercial vehicles.

The issues, she said, are not insurmountable, suggesting the analysis of the town square proposal will help council understand what would all be involved in the street closure.

“I like this idea a lot,” Coun. Kirk Cameron told his colleagues.

“Any proposal that talks about reimagining the downtown is a very good idea.”

Cameron said when he lived and worked in Charlottetown, P.E.I., the city would close one street in front of the province’s legislative assembly building every summer.

The city would set up tables and chess boards, he said.

“It was an amazingly active part of their downtown core in the summer months,” he said.

Comments (23)

Up 14 Down 11

Hobo on Jan 25, 2023 at 4:21 pm

I am tired of hearing about "parking problems" in downtown. I have no-parking problems. I park two blocks away and I walk. Those of you too lazy to walk, I'd say: if you drive a car in Vancouver, Do you park right in front of your selected store?. Down there you'll walk more than two block. Similar in any other "big" city. Costs? ... try parking in any big city and you'll be out $20-30 / day.

Up 16 Down 7

Charlie's Aunt on Jan 24, 2023 at 3:35 pm

Most places that do this have ample parking facilities at either end of pedestrian only area. This scheme is nonsense when applied to only one block, 3 banks on one corner of that block so where are clients supposed to park if they are elderly or a business person on their lunch break? Quit trying to make Whitehorse like a city down south. Allowing those side walk patios was bad enough but now some want more insanity.,

Up 4 Down 2

TheHammer on Jan 24, 2023 at 10:09 am

Good way to solve the parking problem and take out a chunk of the one armed bandit revenue.

Up 2 Down 0

Cops and Gobbers! on Jan 23, 2023 at 5:06 pm

Dear Nathan Living on Jan 22, 2023 at 5:19 pm:

They have their own square on Alexander St and 4th Ave. Maybe we can pretend they are not segregation zones? Hey, let’s call them diversity squares - Any member from another square has the right to enter into another square for the purpose of socializing, pan-handling, drinking, drugging, fighting, having sex, and gobbing everywhere… Inclusivity for everyone!

Up 23 Down 15

Those who are new on Jan 23, 2023 at 1:38 pm

COW tried to have one-way streets in Whitehorse. The cluster lasted all of a weekend.
Pilot projects work well in other places as they have infrastructure support, personnel, RELIABLE transit, biking lanes etc, sidewalks for handicapped people.

What are we going to do when someone making a bank deposit gets robbed or an elderly person cannot access their bank because they have to walk?

Up 16 Down 23

Davis on Jan 23, 2023 at 1:02 pm

Great idea! I've been to several towns in Canada that do this (several do it all year-round) and it seems to work great, it boosts businesses in the area and really improves the atmosphere in the area, much more friendly!

Up 16 Down 4

BnR on Jan 23, 2023 at 11:45 am

No! on Jan 22, 2023 at 4:44 am

So you want to funnel all 32,000 people, plus RV’s, down 4th avenue only?

Heh heh. Someone didn’t bother to read the article prior to commenting.

Up 18 Down 12

No Way Throughway on Jan 23, 2023 at 10:35 am

Main St is not the right place for this given the difficulties it will create. The businesses in the area must already be aware that they are losing traffic to the annoyance of navigating downtown, likelihood of exposure to crime and penny ante yet overly aggressive parking enforcement.

Our visits for stinky cheese, overpriced drinks, banking, gift shopping, or a fresh bagel are down by at least 75%. Not as some kind of intentional strategy, just a natural consequence of the negative experience that is the average downtown visit.

Overall, I welcome the idea of a town square. What about the parking lot by the 2nd Ave bus stops? Or the parking lot at the tourism info centre? Or the parking lots used by COW and the Legislature for staffers? If they are mandating that people bus, walk or cycle to work, shouldn’t they be first to give up their parking?

Up 13 Down 23

Excited! on Jan 23, 2023 at 8:49 am

This is a fantastic idea! It works so well for Vancouver and other cities, honestly shut down Main from Front to Fourth Ave (Leave 2nd open for traffic). Most of Main is small local shops who could really benefit from this.
I think setting up picnic spots, move Arts in the Park and really light up the summer season with art and fun events.
Those who complain about parking, nothing is going to change, what we lose a total of 20 spots with meters, whatever no big loss there. Open up parking behind CIBC to the public during these months and you give an additional 50 parking spots at the very least.

About time this town focused on something besides Rendezvous as we don't celebrate anything else, (Even Canada day is boring these days....)

I heard someone complain that this would being tourism down, but I believe the opposite, this should encourage our tourists to wander main street and along the river. The hotels on the street (edgewater) will have to work around the closed road and since they're owned by NVD they will figure it out for themselves, their guests won't walk that far for a bus, plus bonus right outside is this adorable pedestrian zone with shops and food just for the summer.

Up 10 Down 4

Mark on Jan 23, 2023 at 7:58 am

Will walking speeds will be reduced to .5 kph in this new area?

Up 5 Down 17

Nathan Living on Jan 22, 2023 at 5:19 pm

How is this fair to street people for they will be excluded from this area.

If they bother someone having a coffee or meal in this area they will be harassed and forced to move along.
And what about older people lingering over a meal, it dies a bit with turning a profit for most sidewalk businesses.

Up 43 Down 7

Groucho d'North on Jan 22, 2023 at 10:16 am

So will the pan-handlers need to bid for certain street corners like the food venders do or will it be free-form? Also will City staff be increased or redeployed to deal with all the litter that is bound to appear?
Another consideration would be to post the video camera feeds from that area to the Internet just like when the eagles are on their nest, so that we can enjoy some of the real wildlife the city exibits.

Up 53 Down 12

unReal on Jan 22, 2023 at 7:23 am

Who does this really cater to? Baked and Miner's Daughter already comandered sidewalk space when they took over some of the sidewalk and left the pedestrian to sidle through narrow gaps. Gee, let's window-shop at the two banks, maybe they have a sale? A hotel? Businesses? 2nd and Main are already bottlenecks for cars wanting to make left turns! The loss of parking will have negative effects for the rest of Main Street stores.

Up 37 Down 12

No! on Jan 22, 2023 at 4:44 am

So you want to funnel all 32,000 people, plus RV’s, down 4th avenue only?

What kind of hellish nightmare is this. This down is at the base of a bowl, with maybe 2 ways out- you all forget so quick about the Robert service being closed for two months and the chaos of traffic.

Then for and extra heap of hell, the paving of the 2 mile hill that took us in to our first snow fall.
Normal places expand towns beyond the City Limits- additional municipalities….keep densify a bowl . There is not enough roads, lights or bridges.

Up 38 Down 10

John on Jan 21, 2023 at 8:56 pm

Trying to find a parking spot downtown, to even just do your banking, can be a challenge. This proposal will add even more challenges. It also will mean traffic congestion for those folks who turn onto/or straight into this corridor. It will mean having to turn down Steele or Elliott streets off of 2nd, where there are no signal lights.

There is always a cost to these proposals. In this case it is a lack of parking and traffic congestion on 2nd.
We have terrible traffic now why in the world are we adding this mayhem?

Up 23 Down 14

Juniper Jackson on Jan 21, 2023 at 5:15 pm

If the downtown business core stand still for this, then they have the end result coming. What is the point of this? To encourage people to stay in the downtown, Main St.? A European look with sunny tables and cool umbrella's? The Main St. businesses are pretty transient. How much time can you spend in Subway? Murdochs? But a beggar can sit there all day and wander from table to table begging.

I see a lot of trouble with this. One is the tourist. A tourist is not going to park too far from their vehicle in an unknown city. The bus trade? primarily seniors. Even the sporty walkers are not going to wander too far from their their hotel. They are going to nap and look for gravy on their salmon...Even at the Walmart parking lot, the bus pulls up directly in front of the entrance; everyone off, 1.5 or so hours later it's back in front of the entrance, everybody back on. Staffing is hard now. Even if they have to feed a meter, wait until they can't park and the church lot at the end of Main is full.

I hope it works out for us. I want nothing but prosperity and safety in my community. I'm in Whitehorse, my kids, grandkids. But, just in case, switching my Shoppers account to Ogilvie.

Up 36 Down 13

Max Mack on Jan 21, 2023 at 3:21 pm

CoW has never begun a pilot project that did not become a permanent policy.

CoW will claim success of this "pilot project" because the bars and cafes in that area of Main Street will see an increase in revenue (probably measured against 2000, since that was when covid lockdowns were in place). As though revenues for bars & cafes are the only indicator that matters.

Then, CoW will push to expand the "pedestrian-only" zone to include the majority of main street.

Main Street will never be "energized". Tourists don't come to Whitehorse to visit our pathetic Main Street. Even so, tourists already get free parking. Locals don't go to Main Street unless have to. CoW has done this to itself with its aggressive parking policies that penalize locals. The parking problem will only be magnified when Main Street is closed off.

Up 70 Down 11

Anie on Jan 21, 2023 at 3:01 pm

Downtown Whitehorse was a pleasant spot to spend time. Certainly construction of the dock area by the train station added to the draw. But the reality is that downtown Whitehorse is now a place best avoided. It's been handed over to derelicts and druggies and is no longer pleasant or even safe. Some cities create arts spaces in their downtown, sone create sports centres, Whitehorse created a huge social services encampment. And Mr. Lacking thinks that vehicles are what's keeping people away.

Up 12 Down 24

Wilf Carter on Jan 21, 2023 at 8:54 am

Make public gardens with local plant life. They are big elsewhere and locals and tourist use them.

Up 21 Down 13

Yukoner on Jan 21, 2023 at 8:45 am

Move Arts in the Park here too, and provide some sort of security oversight.

Up 37 Down 7

John - with a J on Jan 21, 2023 at 7:39 am

If done properly this could be the summertime Whitehorse Riviera. If it’s done poorly it could be bad. Other cities are doing it to great success so it would be a good idea to learn from their mistakes before making expensive mistakes of our own.

Up 36 Down 20

Far Canal on Jan 21, 2023 at 3:48 am

We already have to pay a ridiculously stupid amount to park in town, yet, if the lack of parking throughout much of any given weekday is to be believed, many folks have to do it…so this bright idea is to remove parking all together, and the reward…chess boards. Does council hold a competition to see who can come up with the dumbest ideas…? And why does Laking always seem to be the winner?

Up 45 Down 8

Really!? on Jan 20, 2023 at 9:29 pm

Town square for summer months - a really liked idea. But Rendezvous for a few days was too much of a headache with all those happy socializing and shop lifting citizens….

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