By Steve Hubrecht 

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A portion of a downtown street could be closed off to traffic this summer, but it won’t be main street.

Invermere Business Committee (IBC) member Sarah Eastick was at last week’s council meeting, making the case for closing a small part of 12th Street. The IBC hopes to create a destination-type feel to the area, beautifying it and bringing in entertainment, activities and other attractants.

“The idea is to create a space that will add vibrancy and will bring people to the downtown. It will enhance the downtown experience for both locals and visitors,” said Eastick.

The area the IBC is looking at is the part of 12th Street west of main street (7th Avenue) and east of the alley between main street and 8th Avenue near the post office. This stretch of street is very short but contains the Invermere cenotaph plaza. 

The IBC’s plans for the area include a stage for musicians or performers, space for kids to play, food trucks, picnic tables with umbrellas, a water bottle fill station and a misting tent. Beautifying could be done with some extra flower planters, and ideally there would be a shaded area, explained Eastick.

The proposed closure would last from June 15 to September 8. Eastick – owner of main street business Fire Vixen Tattoos and Emporium — explained that traffic  heading east on 12th Street would come to a turnaround point just past the post office.

“You all live here — you know not much happens after 5 p.m. most evenings. If we can create something that gives people a reason to come downtown, that would be great,” she told council.

Councillors and district staff responded enthusiastically to Eastick’s presentation.  “I think it’s a tremendous idea,” said Invermere Mayor Al Miller. “I think you’ve hit upon something that will really work.”

“This seems like a good idea,” said Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young, adding it may be possible for the district to help offset some of the costs entailed in the closure by using COVID-19 re-start funds.

The plan to close part of 12th Street is a much scaled-back alternative to the idea of closing main street to vehicle traffic, turning 7th Avenue into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare. A pedestrian-only main street has been proposed or discussed several times over the past decade. In early 2020 there was considerable backlash from downtown business owners who feared such a closure would negatively impact their business.

The IBC conducted a survey earlier this year on a pedestrian-only main street. The results showed that a majority of residents favoured the idea, but local businesses weren’t so keen; more than half didn’t agree. 

Eastick said that a smaller-scale closure off main street offers many of the same benefits as a main street closure but without the risk of  hurting local businesses.