Port Alberni’s longest three streets could soon be amalgamated into one, if a proposal from city council to unify Gertrude Street, Stamp Avenue and Third Avenue is accepted.
“That’s the one street that stitches the two sides of the city together so we decided a year ago that it would be a good process to go through in order to rename it,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan following Monday’s council meeting.
“We would rename it on the basis of a competition and see what names people come up with.”
According to city planner Scott Smith, the change would affect nearly 250 properties.
“The proposed street name change to Gertrude, Stamp and Third would directly impact about 110 commercial properties and about 140 residential properties,” Smith told council on Monday.
“If a street name was changed the city would certainly install new street signage and we would need to change our digital mapping and information systems.”
Speaking after the meeting, Ruttan said that the cost to the city was yet to be determined.
According to Smith, property owners and tenants would be responsible for changing any address-specific items.
“Property owners and tenants would be responsible for ensuring that the address change was reflected in all their documents. They’d have to change their driver’s licence, any banking and financial information.
“Businesses would have to change their business accounts, letterheads, logo advertising, websites and any legal documents they have,” Smith said.
He recommended that the city seek public input from affected businesses, residents and local emergency services prior to making any changes.
Coun. Denis Sauve said he didn’t see a need to change the street names, especially given the cost and hassle.
“Changing the name of the main drag going through South and Northport I don’t think has anything to do with reuniting a city—we’re already united. I’m just wondering where our priorities are being and why we’re even entertaining and doing this now,” said Sauve.
He also questioned the cost of changing the street addresses in the 911 system.
“For the rezoning and mapping of the 911 system… there is going to be a major cost. Who’s going to take on that cost?”
Coun. Ron Paulson, who used to direct tourists during his time as a business owner and at the Multiplex, said that the cost was worth it to simplify the city streetscape for visitors.
“I think this is one way of making our community more visitor friendly. I don’t know how many times I tried to explain to people how to get to the Harbour Quay and after I gave instructions they said ‘oh that’s complicated, I’m not going to bother,’” said Paulson.
However, Treadsetters Shoes owner Barbara Mellaart said that the street name doesn’t even enter into when she’s giving directions.
“It’s one strip. When we give people directions we tell them to take this road all the way through to Pete’s Meats, 7-11, the name of the road doesn’t come into it.”
“It’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” said Mellaart. “All of those businesses from Gertrude and Johnston down are going to have to change their letterhead, their bank accounts, their cheques, it’s a huge, huge financial burden to all of those businesses and the name of those streets have been like that since the beginning of time. Why change them?”
SteamPunk Cafe owner Kevin Wright disagreed.
“It’s part of growth. There are growing pains but this is going to be good for this community. Especially the connection, that’s the biggest thing for me. I want the community to feel connected,” said Wright.
Coun. Chris Alemany said that the change just made sense to him.
“It really is a legacy of when the city was two different legacies so I think it’s very valid to try to bring it together and have one name for the community to have in place,” he said.
A new name is also an opportunity to showcase the city’s first nations neighbours, Alemany added.
“I see this as an opportunity of finally bringing our first nations into the landscape of the city. Maybe this could finally be a place where we could have first nations representation in our streetscapes.”
The names of both Gertrude Street and Stamp Avenue are historical names.