Pedestrianizing Dunlop Street for the summer once again on the table

After what local business leaders called a successful first-run, Barrie city council is set to consider an expanded return of the Open Air Dunlop Street Project.

Last fall, Dunlop Street was closed to vehicular traffic for a total of five Saturdays in a bid to increase foot traffic and revenue for local businesses.

"We discovered that people just want to come down and really enjoy the brand new streetscape, if and able pop into one of our great shops downtown or grab a great meal from our chefs who are independent restaurants," said Kelly McKenna, the executive director of the Downtown BIA. "We have a unique offering downtown, along with Meridian Place and the water right across the street."

On Monday night, city council will discuss implementing the program once again and expanding it to 15 Saturdays, running from June through to July.

There is also consideration into making Dunlop Street pedestrian-only on Fridays of long weekends, with a total of four being up for discussion. The area's city councillor not only supports the project but thinks it should be permanent.

"I think we should build our streets to prioritize people instead of just cars," said Ward 2 councillor Keenan Aylwin. "Not only is that good for the environment, but it's good for people's health and it's good for business. So I think we should even consider expanding this program beyond just doing a few Saturday's every year. I think we should look at permanently pedestrianizing Dunlop Street in a few years' time."

If approved, the closures would run from Mulcaster to the Five Points intersection. Businesses located on the west end of Dunlop street would also be included. Mary Street and Maple Street would remain open to vehicular traffic.

According to the BIA, more than 23,000 people visited the city's downtown core through last year's run of the project.

The reimplementation of the Open Air Dunlop Street Project would require city council to invest $60,000, something Aylwin says he fully supports.

McKenna notes that it will only move forward and be put into effect if and when the province lifts the current stay-at-home order, forcing many businesses in the downtown core closed or curbside pickup only.