Kelowna Chamber wants change downtown

A new survey conducted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has found the majority of its downtown businesses(82%) feel their concern over safety and security has gone up over the last year.

The Chamber surveyed its downtown business members in late July to gain better information on the business environment, especially in the Leon - Lawrence area. “Although our downtown members make up just a small part (15%) of our 1200 membership, their concerns are important to us,” said Tom Dyas, Past President of the Chamber of Commerce in Kelowna.

 “We first raised our concern with the City last fall,” said Dyas. “The City has responded with a number of initiatives aimed at improving conditions in the downtown and the business community is appreciative of that effort but believe more can be done. We are also hopeful that the recent hiring of former RCMP Superintendent Bill McKinnon to review the situation downtown and elsewhere will lead to tangible action to improve safety for both customers and those who work downtown.”

Three-quarters of those who responded to the survey thought the Chamber should be doing more to encourage the Province to re-locate emergency shelters away from high-traffic commercial corridors and to consider reducing the number of clients at each shelter.  The survey respondents also encouraged the Chamber to lobby the City and Province to increase funding for mental health and additional services to help those who need it.

Dyas says the Chamber has been made aware that the Province of BC is considering shutting down the Cornerstone Shelter, downtown on Leon Avenue, as of March 31, 2019.  “We are cautiously optimistic that that will happen but we are hoping that those communications continue.  It would allow businesses some certainty and with that certainty they will be able to plan and continue to look at potentially operating within that location, recognizing that change is coming.  Without that certainty it’s just extremely unfair to individuals within the downtown core.”