EDITORIAL: Alberni merchants ask for change Uptown

Merchants on Third Avenue last week asked the City of Port Alberni to create a more pedestrian-friendly Uptown by eliminating two lanes of traffic, adding benches and lights and a host of other potential changes.

We applaud the merchants’ efforts and hope city council will take their request seriously.

Quality of life indices often talk about economics, political environment, infrastructure, and what housing and recreational opportunities abound. Really, though, it’s about liveability.

Harbour Quay already offers a gathering place for people, and Kingsway Crossing—the business and residential community that has taken hold at Argyle Street and along Kingsway Avenue—is creating its own community. Following the hill up Argyle and spreading along Third Avenue seems a natural way to build on these strengths.

Stacey and Franco Gaiga created a gathering place for Uptown when they built Gaiga Square on Third Avenue: gardens, a fountain and a commissioned sculpture by Indigenous artist Gordon Dick. The pocket park adds some greenery to the corner, transforming a gravel lot into something beautiful—but the park is under-utilized.

The Rotary Arts District and Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley have added some character to the area with art and public sculpture projects, and both ACAWS and AV Hospice Society commissioned a butterfly bench by chainsaw artist Jesse Toso for Third Avenue.

There is potential, and now there is a desire from merchants in the area to take action.

Turning the focus of Uptown to a pedestrian-friendly area will force city council’s hand on what to do with industrial truck traffic—and will show the public whether they have the will to do anything about rerouting trucks from Third Avenue.

Roundabouts have been discussed informally within the community for Argyle Street; they could create smoothly flowing traffic along Third Avenue by eliminating the four-way stops. They can be constructed so emergency vehicles can navigate them quickly.

Eleven years ago the city produced its Uptown and Waterfront Redevelopment Plan for the area. Not much of that plan has been achieved, but the positive aspect is that it represented a complete picture of what Uptown could be.

If the merchants and city council are serious about examining a pedestrian-friendly Uptown, a cohesive plan is a must.

—Alberni Valley News

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