PEI

Charlottetown rejects Sydney Street pedestrian proposal — for now

A restaurant owner on Sydney Street says he is frustrated by Charlottetown council’s decision to reject a proposal to make part of the street a pedestrian walkway.

Mayor says safety, parking issues need to be resolved

Restaurant owners along Sydney Street have proposed closing part of the street to vehicle traffic for certain times during the summer. (Shane Ross/CBC)

A restaurant owner on Sydney Street says he is frustrated by Charlottetown council's decision to reject a proposal to make part of the street — from the Olde Dublin Pub to Queen Street — a pedestrian walkway in the summer.

Kevin Murphy, whose restaurants include Sims, Gahan House and The Brickhouse on Sydney Street, said he and other business owners have lobbied the city for the past few years to create an atmosphere similar to Victoria Row, which runs parallel to Sydney Street and closes every summer to vehicle traffic.

Council recently voted 6-1 in favour of keeping Sydney Street, which is currently a one-way street, open to vehicle traffic. 

"I feel disappointed probably and just frustrated with City Hall," Murphy said. "Obviously, we are lacking leadership, especially this year with regard to the tourism industry. Downtown Charlottetown is a ghost town. This is a year for them to stand up and lead."

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said he does not oppose the idea of a pedestrian area on Sydney Street in theory, but there are safety and parking issues that have to be worked out before it can happen.

'Doesn't meet the standard'

"There is a sincere effort to make this work, but we have to ensure that the fire/life safety code is adhered to," said Brown.

"And we understand that the Murphys, and some of the other business operators on Sydney Street, have made great efforts to address it, but it just doesn't meet the standard that's required by the National Fire Prevention Association code."

Victoria Row, which runs parallel to Sydney Street, has been a pedestrian mall in the summer for about last 20 years. (CBC)

For example, Brown said Sydney Street is not as wide as Victoria Row. He said police and fire officials have expressed concerns about their ability to respond to an emergency if the street was closed off to vehicle traffic.

Brown said parking lots on Sydney Street also pose a problem because vehicles could not turn toward Queen Street if that area is closed, and they could not turn in the other direction because they would be going against traffic on a one-way street.

We're getting a little tired of it because there are a lot of reasons why we can't do something but maybe we should find one reason to do something.— Kevin Murphy

He also said there were concerns from business owners on Victoria Row who use the back of their buildings on Sydney Street for deliveries.

However, Murphy said he just wants to make the downtown a better place. He said if cities such as Halifax, Quebec City and Saint John can close streets to vehicle traffic, Charlottetown should be able to as well.

"We're getting a little tired of it because there are a lot of reasons why we can't do something but maybe we should find one reason to do something."

Brown said when Victoria Row was made a pedestrian mall in the summer 20 years ago, it "didn't happen overnight." 

"It required a lot of compromise and a lot of to and fro between the city's protective services departments and the owner-operators on Victoria Row."

'Door not closed'

Brown said it's possible the issues with Sydney Street can be resolved eventually, as well.

"For me the door is not closed," he said. "If you want to look at something for the long term, let's start planning for the long term."

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