THE CITY OF KAMLOOPS is revising its 2005 City Centre Plan. Their goal is to create a plan that guides land use for the next 20 years in the centre of the city. The plan will encompass the Downtown, Sagebrush, and West End neighborhoods.
In essence, they want to make our city centre as vibrant as possible, now and in 20 year.
There are many ways our centre is vibrant. There are some great things that have happened in our downtown. From BrewLoops to Santa Claus Parade to Hot Nites. From Blazers games to Art Gallery openings, the downtown is a place a lot of our community events happen.
The centre is the hub of culture and sports for the city.
But, the plan is not just about the large festivals and hockey games, but the day-to-day. The plan is how the downtown will feel on an average day. Is it a place that is alive from morning to late? Or is it a place people just drive through? Is it the place we take our out of town guests, or somewhere we only go for work?
City planners talk about something called “sticky streets”. Those are streets where people like to go. Where they linger, people-watch, and as a result, connect with others.
“Sticky streets” is what I feel every time I’m down on Victoria Street between 2nd and 4th Avenue. I meet people I know. There’s a cafe to sit at and have a coffee. There’s window shopping.
But I can’t say that I feel it everywhere downtown. Much of St. Paul Street in the downtown is parking lots, making that an uninviting street except when the Farmer’s Market is on. Lansdowne Street is the domain of the chip trucks heading to the pulp mill.
Is it possible for the new City Centre Plan to make more of Kamloops’ downtown “sticky streets,” so that day to day we all want to linger longer in our downtown?
All over the world, there are “sticky streets”. Robson Street in Vancouver, especially around the Vancouver Art Gallery, is a “sticky street.” Champs–Élysées in Paris is a sticky street. Times Square in New York is a sticky street.
But sticky streets don’t have to be just the grandest boulevards. A short alley that has been given a few planters and space for some tables or a bench could be part of a neighborhood. For example, the entrance to the alley on 3rd Avenue between Victoria Street and Seymour Street could be made into a sticky place. That’s what is done in Paris in the entrance of many small lane ways off of heavy traffic streets.
Or some of the areas currently taken up by cars could be taken up by people. With 25 per cent of the Kamloops downtown currently dedicated to parking, there is a lot of dead space where there are no people. People like to hang out with people, not with parked cars.
Slower traffic makes places more pleasant too. Slowing traffic by narrowing lanes would make Seymour Street and Lansdowne more pleasant to walk down.
To make more space for people, we need to reduce the space for cars.
That’s heretical for some, but there are many ways to remove a few parking spots to expand sidewalks. That’s what has been done in Nelson, B.C., where patios expand into parking spots in the summer months, making their Baker Street come alive.
Some would argue that without parking, people wouldn’t come downtown. But people go where there are reasons to go, parking or no parking. Look at how far people walk to get to Royal Inland Hospital, or to Blazers games, or Thompson Rivers University. Of course, not everyone walks, but many do. Meaning that if there were enough reasons to go downtown, people would walk a few blocks if they couldn’t find a spot right in front of their favorite store.
One final thought: the City of Kamloops constantly talks about reducing parking demand in the downtown. Yet they are one of the largest users of parking in the downtown. Their employees receive free parking, giving them no incentive to change their habits.
Along with creating a plan for downtown employees to take transit to work, it’s time for the City of Kamloops to encourage their own employees to take transit too.
When the last City Centre Plan was drafted in 2005, Thompson Rivers University had just incorporated. We had survived the wildfire of 2005. CJ Stretch still played for the Blazers.
If we think how far we’ve come as a city since then, it’s exciting to think how far we can go 20 years from now, with a brand new City Centre Plan.
The City has completed Phase 1 and 2 of the planning process. Get out when you can to give your input during Phase 3.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.