Members of Port Alberni’s Uptown Merchants Association are looking for help from city council to turn Port Alberni’s Uptown into a warm and welcoming environment.
Flandangles owner Chris Washington appeared before council on Monday, Dec. 10, joined by Carol Anne Phillips of Forever New Consignment and Ellen Frood of Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society. They wanted to reiterate several issues that were brought forward to a meeting of council last May.
Washington said that one of the most pressing concerns for residents of the Uptown area is lighting.
“They like to be able to walk at night, and they find it feels very uncomfortable and unsafe,” she explained.
Washrooms are also a concern for residents of the area. There are no public washrooms on the Third Avenue corridor, and many businesses close at 5 p.m.
Although the Uptown merchants previously brought forward the concept of a traffic circle to get large trucks off of Third Avenue, Washington said they are not necessarily set on a traffic circle as a solution.
“That was just a way to open the conversation,” she said.
Washington suggested some other solutions, including widening the sidewalks and reducing the street to two lanes.
“We understand that there is a limited budget to be spent on the entire city,” said Phillips. “However, many of our taxpayers reside or own businesses in South Port, and together we’d like to create a draw for both the locals and the tourists in the area.”
One of Phillips’ most pressing concerns is rumours on social media, especially the local Facebook group AV Chatter Box.
“As a group, we’re doing everything that we can to redirect the negative impact social media is having on our area,” she said. “We’re seeing and hearing people and customers who are afraid to come to the area to shop. Social media is making us out to be under constant attack from criminal elements and that’s just not the case.”
Frood said that lighting could help dispel some of these rumours, describing the area as “a neighbourhood that’s in transition.”
“We want to see that transition, but we have to make it warm. We have to make it welcoming,” she said.
The city has invested money into Johnston Road, she added, but the Uptown area should be considered “equally as important” as Johnston Road.
Washington said that although is is “very difficult” to get the rest of the community on board with development on Third Avenue, there are many taxpayers who live in South Port.
“We have new developments going in,” she said. “People are working really hard updating old buildings, rejeuvenating. People have invested their lives on Third Avenue, and we cannot just let it go.”
Mayor Sharie Minions said that council cannot help when it comes to rumours on social media, but it is important for people to speak up against rumours.
”It takes the rest of the community coming out to say it’s a great place,” she said. “People really do need to speak up on AV Chatter Box, on many issues.”
Council also agreed to appoint Coun. Helen Poon as a liaison for the Uptown Merchants Association.
On Thursday, Dec. 20, the uptown merchants will be holding Christmas in Uptown. From 5-8 p.m., there will be hot chocolate and goodies, and many of the stores will be open late as well. Santa will also be at the Business Development Centre on Third Avenue for pictures.