Keith Ambrose, who opened Uptown Urban Market with his partner Marie Knoll in 2016, hopes to represent numerous businesses in approaching Port Alberni City Council with solutions to crime plaguing the city. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)

More businesses in Port Alberni need a voice at city council, says one Uptown owner

Business owner says all businesses in the Alberni Valley need a louder voice

An Uptown Port Alberni business owner says all businesses in the Alberni Valley need a louder voice to address city council, and he wants to be that voice.

Keith Ambrose and his partner, Marie Knoll, own Uptown Urban Market on Second Avenue. Ambrose says there are businesses, like his, whose interests aren’t being represented in front of city council. So he took up a petition to various businesses around the city and has agreed to bring their concerns, whether that be in the form of letters or something else, to council.

Ambrose also appeared in front of Port Alberni City Council on Monday (Feb. 24).

READ: Uptown Urban Market makes plans for 2017

There is already an organized business association made up of businesses operating near Ambrose’s—the Uptown Merchants Association—and the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce also advocates for its members and the business community at large. Many of the Uptown merchants are also chamber members.

The Uptown Merchants’ Association serves a wide block between Harbour Quay and Fourth Avenue along Argyle Street, and Third Avenue from Kingsway (the bottom of the hill) up to Mar Street. They charge a $25 annual membership fee and have regular meetings, said chair Chris Washington, who owns two businesses on Third Avenue.

In recent years the association has advocated for better lighting Uptown, and changes that would make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Ambrose said he disagrees with many of the suggestions that have been brought forward.

There are presently 14 members in the uptown association and everyone has been approached within the last year to join, Washington said. There are two Facebook pages people can follow for information on Uptown: Uptown Port Alberni and Uptown Merchants Only (a private group for Uptown merchants). Uptown business meetings happen every second Tuesday at Steampunk Café at 8 a.m.

READ: Port Alberni merchants advocate for improvements to business district

A retired millwright and resident in the downtown core, Ambrose speaks vociferously of his concern about social issues in the Uptown area, and doesn’t feel his opinions are being heard: “reduce crime, street filth, disrespect, which would make the Uptown a safer area for us than to improve the visuals,” he said.

He did not attend a recent session called Crime, Court and Commerce, hosted by the chamber and featuring a panel including RCMP, Crown Counsel, probation officers and a sitting judge as a moderator, because he wanted to be able to get up and speak and was told the format of the meeting wouldn’t allow it.

Recent discussions about a proposed beautification project for two blocks of Third Avenue underline the split Ambrose says he feels as a business owner in the area.

“I’m about business first, and the extras when they can be afforded,” he said.

Ambrose has approached businesses outside of the Uptown Merchants Association’s area, and has signed up nearly two dozen who are willing to let him speak on their behalf. He said he will approach businesses uptown too.

READ: Port Alberni moves closer to Third Avenue beautification project

Ambrose wants to act as liaison between the businesses he has signed up on a list and city council. He isn’t interested in forming a rival organization or any organized business group—he just wants others’ voices to be heard, he said.

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