St. John's pedestrian mall wraps up 2nd year, but some say fall market could work

·3 min read
Madeline McCaul, right, says tourists still come to Newfoundland in the fall. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Madeline McCaul, right, says tourists still come to Newfoundland in the fall. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

Another year of the downtown St. John's pedestrian mall has come and gone as shoppers, diners, walkers and cyclists took in the final day of the season on Monday.

This year saw some changes, including an expansion to parts of Duckworth Street after pushback from businesses that wanted to be included in the traffic-less, pedestrian-friendly success their Water Street counterparts experienced in 2020.

The idea was developed to help downtown businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, including restrictions on how many people can shop or dine indoors.

But as the second turn of the pedestrian mall wound down, some said the project could have been extended into the school year.

"Too bad it's not open later. It's closing now — we haven't got time to get here, so I'm so happy I came today," said Madeline McCaul, who took in the mall for the first time.

McCaul works in the tourism industry in Ferryland and doesn't have much time to make it into the city for leisure, she told CBC News.

McCaul was on Water Street with her grandsons on Monday to get lunch, and said the project should have been done years ago. But the timing of the closure is something she didn't agree with.

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

McCaul said the city should have extended the mall further into September or early November, adding that in her experience in the tourism industry, people still flock to Newfoundland in the fall.

"I see a lot of people that come this time of the year, so it's sad to see it close so early," she said.

Last year the city proposed bringing back the pedestrian mall for two weekends in December for a holiday market. The plan nearly got off the ground until an influx of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador at the time halted the idea completely.

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

Some residents would like to see that idea brought forward again.

"We've been down here a lot, and I hope it comes back later, Christmas time. We're down here all the time," said Grace Kelly, who enjoyed the final day of the mall for the summer before heading into Grade 9.

"It's really nice. It's different. It's really fun coming down here with friends and family."

The city has yet to signal whether or not it will be looking into operating a holiday market downtown this year.

Residents like Glenn Normore say the mall is proving its worth.

"You just react to really bad things that happen in your life sometimes and you find a way to find little bit of happiness. I think they did try it back in the Sixties or something," Normore said.

"Change is difficult for a lot of people, but I think it's really good. I think it's worked out."

Normore said he would also like to see the mall extended into the fall, but added the argument is easier to make when the weather is nice — but not so much during the chillier weather of fall.

City wants feedback

Meanwhile, the City of St. John's says it's collecting feedback from businesses, visitors and non-visitors until Sept. 30. The goal is to release a "what we heard" document, which will help inform council decisions about the future of the pedestrian mall, according to a media release from the city.

The document will be released to stakeholders, the community, staff and council later this fall, the city said, but did not give an exact date for publication.

The city is also taking feedback regarding the pedestrian-only and local-traffic zone in Quidi Vidi Village.

The public can leave feedback for the downtown pedestrian mall here and the Quidi Vidi pedestrian zone here. The public can also email engage@stjohns.ca, or call 311 or 754-2489.

Focus groups are being planned with business and stakeholder organizations and the city's Inclusion Advisory Committee.

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