The Downtown Penticton Association (DPA) says the downtown core is better and safer than ever before.
The DPA says several initiatives by the city and local organizations have made a difference, from increasing the number of bylaw officers to changing aspects of the urban design.
“Over the last 18 months, the City of Penticton has focused on a lot of things that I think have been really helpful, in terms of reducing crime and keeping crime from growing,” said Lynn Allin, DPA executive director.
She explained that the city has increased the number of bylaw and RCMP foot patrols in the area, as well their general presence downtown.
They have also hired and trained additional bylaw officers, and improved the education for what to do when witnessing a potential crime, which the mayor says has driven some worries of increased crime.
“Crime is not going up. The number of people reporting crimes has doubled,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki. “It seems like crime is on the rise, but the report is just increased, thanks to the ‘See Something Say Something’ the city is doing.”
The city has also undertaken more subtle methods of improving the safety and appearance of downtown.
“Through Nanaimo Square, there was installation of intense lighting and regular clean-ups, and lots of foot patrols in that area,” said Allin.
“The whole focus around crime prevention through environmental design, that kind of works with the Nanaimo Square lighting.”
Following on the changes to Nanaimo Square, the DPA and city are looking at improving the breezeway on the 200 block of Main Street. It is currently closed for renovations until March 5.
“The work that we’re doing in the 200 block breezeway, with increased lighting and cleaning it up, and keeping it safer,” said Allin.
“We’re looking at getting some more artwork in there too. “
Allin also cited the Good Neighbour Bylaw that was implemented last summer as another source of positive change. The bylaw imposes standards of cleanliness for private properties, among other aspects.
“The city also created the Public Works Clean Team, and they’re on the ground all the time keeping things neat and tidy,” said Allin. “There’s been a lot of really positive things.”
With the work on the 200 block breezeway currently underway, the next biggest project currently on the horizon is the proposed lake-to-lake cycling path.
“Right now the talk of the town is the bike lanes,” said Allin.
“With the bike lanes, the consulting firm that’s working with the city has identified Martin Street or Winnipeg Street as being the two points of consideration.”
Allin and the DPA want to make sure residents and businesses downtown make sure their voices are heard on the proposed lake-to-lake cycling route, either by attending the DPA’s annual general meeting on March 18 at Cannery Brewing, or the city’s March 25 and 26 events at the Convention Centre.
“It’s a big change to our downtown,” said Allin. “It would mean a loss of parking, it would have impact on different businesses, it would have different impacts for residents on Martin or Winnipeg.”
The two options were narrowed down from four after open houses hosted by the city in December, which provided around 200 response forms. The DPA says they want to hear from more people.
“Our concern is that perhaps engagement hasn’t been completed…Making decisions based on 200 returned forms, that’s a low number. That works out to less than one per cent of our population. We’re saying that we’re in favour of bike lanes, in favour of working on the city on this. It’s a great project. We just need to hear from more people.”
The DPA annual general meeting is open to downtown business community, while the two meetings hosted by the city are open to the public.