A plan to convert Dunlop Street into a pedestrian mall between Toronto and Mulcaster streets this summer is being brought before general committee on Monday.
If adopted by committee and subsequently by council, Clapperton to Mulcaster streets of the downtown thoroughfare will be designated pedestrian-only on 15 Saturdays being June 5 and Sept. 4, and again on Saturday, Oct. 9. There will also be four Friday half-day closures from noon onward on July 2, July 30, Sept. 3, and Oct. 8. The strip will also close to traffic for one Friday half-day and five Saturdays from Bayfield to Toronto streets on July 2, 3, 10, 17 and 24.
The City, according to a staff report detailing the plan, will contribute up to $60,000 to support the 24 road closures over the duration of the program, to be funded from the reinvestment reserve.
The report recommends the program “be supported in partnership with the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA) through the Open Air Dunlop 2021 programming, subject to the approval of all required special event permits and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) requirements.”
Last June the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA) polled its members on closing the road to vehicular traffic and received majority support for the plan, which includes distancing measures adhering to COVID-19 protocols. Council backed the concept later in the month, with the BIA taking the lead on the Open Air project.
“The … BIA is planning to deliver passive street activation programming that is aligned with Provincial COVID-19 restrictions and gathering limits. The … (BIA) recognizes that the scope and type of programming to take place during Open Air Dunlop will be determined by local public health restrictions at the time of the activation date, and will work closely with City of Barrie’s Special Events team to ensure protocols are adhered to,” reads the report.
A number of communities have adopted pedestrianization as a best practice to attract people to an area. Last year, Open Air Dunlop 2020 succeeded in creating pedestrian traffic in the downtown core.
“COVID-19 and the continuous changing environment of the pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty amongst local downtown businesses. Programming such as Open Air Dunlop is a recovery effort to help promote local businesses and encourage customers to visit, shop, dine and support businesses within the downtown in a safe physically distanced manner,” says the report.
“With the completion of the construction and streetscaping along Dunlop Street, Open Air Dunlop provides a unique opportunity to attract the community to the downtown to enjoy the new features of the street and to engage with retailers.”
The funding request for 2021 Open Air Dunlop totals $60,000, about 50 per cent of costs. The City’s final contribution will depend on the number of closures the BIA is able to achieve subject to health regulations. This year’s patio season was supposed to launch April 1, but has been delayed due to the current stay-at-home order. It’s hoped the no-vehicle program will entice people to come downtown and support local businesses.