Whitehorse to consider pedestrian-only section of Main Street for summer months

The intersection of Main Street and 2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. The city will consider closing part of the area to cars for the summer months. (Google Street View - image credit)
The intersection of Main Street and 2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. The city will consider closing part of the area to cars for the summer months. (Google Street View - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse will consider closing part of Main Street to vehicles during the summer in an effort to bring energy back to the downtown core.

At Monday night's council meeting, council voted to have city staff look into making the street pedestrian-only between Front Street and 2nd Avenue.

If put into action, the one-year pilot project would see the area closed to cars from June to August.

Councillor Ted Laking brought forward the motion. He said downtown businesses have had a hard time through the pandemic, and the model could bring more foot traffic to the area.

"The goal here is to bring excitement back to our Main Street, to make it a real destination," Laking said. "To reignite the downtown core, and to support small business in the community that relies on Main Street."

Laking noted similar models have worked well in other cities, citing a 2021 study into the success of a patio program in the City of Toronto.

Analysis to be completed

The passing of the motion does not guarantee the pilot project will go ahead. First, city staff will do an analysis of the idea and present their findings to council for consideration.

According to the motion, city staff will consult businesses and organizations in the area.

Mike Gau, director of development services for the city, estimated that process would take at least a couple months.

"We need to shape what this concept will entail and what we could do by the summer," Gau said.

Councillors also noted it would be important to consider accessibility concerns and how to mitigate the loss of parking spaces in the area.

Elyn Jones/CBC
Elyn Jones/CBC

Chamber of Commerce welcomes the move

Andrei Samson, executive director of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in the area were supportive of the idea.

"I feel like bringing back something on Main Street would create that vibrancy and also create foot traffic and also would support retailers on Main Street," Samson said.

She noted with the Whitehorse trolley no longer running, it would be good to attract pedestrians to the area.

"It also would support retailers on Main Street with, you know, buying local, enjoying the restaurants and spending the time on Main Street with families and friends," Samson said, "bringing that energy back on Main Street that we've lost for the past few years."