City of Whitehorse looks for input on downtown pedestrian square

Looking up Main Street from the corner at Front Street in downtown Whitehorse. The city is proposing to temporarily close the block to vehicles this summer, to create a pedestrian square. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
Looking up Main Street from the corner at Front Street in downtown Whitehorse. The city is proposing to temporarily close the block to vehicles this summer, to create a pedestrian square. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse is looking for input on a proposal to close off a downtown block to vehicles this summer and create a pedestrian square.

The idea is to make a downtown hub where people might be more inclined to stroll, shop and eat. It would be on Main Street, between Second Avenue and Front Street.

City council talked about it earlier this year, and now the city is soliciting public feedback through an online survey and talking to local businesses. The feedback will help the city plan the initiative as a temporary pilot project this summer.

"It's kind of a mixed bag for us," said Adam Gerle of Northern Vision Development (NVD), a property management company that owns several businesses including the Edgewater Hotel with the Belly of the Bison restaurant, at the corner of Main and Front Streets.

"Like, it's not ideal for the hotel part of the operation, but as far as the restaurant and just, you know, making a more vibrant community and vibrant downtown core, we are supportive."

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

Gerle says parking is an issue, as the proposed pedestrian square would eliminate dozens of metered parking spaces along Main Street. Blocking that road to traffic would also make it difficult for the airport shuttle to deliver guests right to the door of the Edgewater Hotel, he says.

But overall, Gerle says NVD supports the idea and would likely expand its restaurant patio as a result.

"It makes for a more vibrant downtown core," he said.

Downtown resident Lewis Rifkind also likes the idea of a pedestrian square, especially in that particular area. He says he goes there every morning for coffee, and it's central to a lot of non-vehicle traffic and is convenient for downtown workers.

Dave Croft/CBC
Dave Croft/CBC

"Personally, I would encourage the city to look at other areas where this can happen. The streets can be blocked off for vehicles and be returned to individuals, to people on foot. It makes for a very good, very livable city," Rifkind said.

"When you go to Europe or you go to Asia, you see a lot of this, that everything is centred around people walking or bicycling or in winter, kicksledding, and not people in individual vehicles. So it definitely changes the focus of how a city works, and how people live within a city."

The city says the proposed Main Street Town Square fits with priorities included in the 2018 downtown plan. That plan aims to, among other things, promote the Main Street commercial core as "the heart of Whitehorse."

The city's online survey closes on Wednesday, April 5.