Building Excitement Downtown

Last week the Penticton’s Farmers Market opened for the season. I was impressed with the amount of people that showed up for some local produce. I was even more impressed with the selection of items on sale this early in the season. We are starting to come full circle and recognize the importance of knowing where our food comes from. Growing up, I remember having a large garden. I remember my mom canning everything.  People are starting to pay attention more to growing their own food or supporting the local farm community.

As I visited my favourite local producers, I learned that the shoulder season is Mayor Andrew Jakubeit at opening of Penticton Farmer's Marketjust as busy as the summer season since typically it is the locals that support the farmers. The community market is what really ramps up sales in the summer when the tourists arrive. Many people probably don’t realize that there are actually two separate markets downtown each Saturday morning. While the two distinct markets have separate boards that oversee their operation, both are symbiotic to the success of our popular Saturday morning destination.

The markets are one of the best ways to connect with the community, socialize, and pick up some needed supplies or items to enrich our Okanagan lifestyle.  It is amazing to people watch as they visit or try to socialize their dogs. Dogs in the market are always a sensitive subject as not everyone is an animal lover. When bringing your pet please keep them on a short leash, monitor their behavior, and don’t forget those important poo-poo bag(s). There are many sights, smells, people and other dogs to get a pet excited, so if your dog is anti-social…perhaps the market isn’t the venue to correct it.

As you come downtown you will notice the 200 Block and the Westminster intersection on Main Street are starting to take shape. You can see the curbing and visualize the finished product with wide sidewalks perfect for a quaint café table or a leisurely stroll. Revitalization has been a priority for council as we feel downtown is an ideal place for densification. The more we create downtown as a people place the more individuals will feel comfortable to work, live and play there.

In more news of downtown rejuvenation, we had an exciting announcement this week about the old Penmar Theatre being converted into an urban winery. I envision it will be like the Bad Tattoo or Cannery Brewing locations, but with wine instead of beer. It will add another destination and unique attraction for downtown.  The new urban winery will also keep one theatre as a functional theatre so that will enhance and give opportunity to our arts scene.

It is exciting to see a vacant property getting developed through local owners and turned into something to add vibrancy to downtown. Last week at the SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association) Convention we put forth a motion about creating a new assessment class for vacant lands.  It would allow municipalities to charge a higher tax rate to encourage an owner to develop or beautify their property, or provide some extra revenue for the City to create a pocket park or other community amenity. The motion was supported unanimously and will now get forwarded to the UBCM (union of BC municipalities) convention who then lobbies the province.

Maybe it is the unseasonably sunny weather or the lilacs blooming, but there is momentum happening in the city. You’ll feel it when you come down. Of course, you may just feel the rumble of the diggers for now, but for me, the downtown plan feels like it is coming together.