The City of Whitehorse’s long-awaited town square launched last week, as Main Street was transformed into a pedestrian-only hub.
A temporary pilot project, the pedestrian hub officially opened on June 23 and will serve as a gathering place for the community during the summer months. The square runs along Main Street between Second Avenue and Front Street and will be open until Sept. 5. Coun. Ted Laking first proposed the idea of a pedestrian-only street back in January.
Speeches from the mayor and a local artist helped kick off the grand opening at 4 p.m.
“We had some important people who needed to be there — Mayor Laura Cabott and the council were present,” said Stephanie Chevalier, the city’s economic development coordinator. “There was also Laurence Smith, the lead artist who has been designing the artwork, and the carvers from Northern Cultural Expressions Society and Laurence’s carving brothers and sisters.”
After the speeches, there was live music until 6 p.m.
“We had our very first concert on Friday for the opening,” Chevalier said. “We had a DJ for the first day, and we’re going to have some concerts every Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. so that people can enjoy the area when they finish work.”
Local artists will perform the concerts in partnership with Music Yukon.
Aside from concerts, there will also be weekly market days featuring local artisans, food and more. The markets will take place on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“[The markets] are going to be something that we are going to experiment with and see how that goes,” Chevalier said. “So far, we have about 20 vendors that are planned for both markets, but we’re still open to have new vendors.”
Of course, many food options are also available in the town square, with food trucks, restaurants, bars and coffee shops surrounding both sides of Main Street.
“There’s definitely more people in the neighbourhood than there was in the previous weeks,” Chevalier said. “For lunchtime, there was a lineup at both food trucks, the picnic tables in front of the coffee shop were very well attended, and in the afternoon, the bar and restaurant are very well attended. I do feel that there are definitely a lot of people just coming to see what it looks like and how it feels to be in that new area.”
Other businesses in the square include a hotel, gift shop, goldsmith, gift shop for children, artwork store and Horwoods Mall.
“There is a bit of a diversity in that area which is the reason I think council was interested in seeing how that area would become pedestrian,” Chevalier said.
Chevalier went on to explain there is still room to grow and adjust as more people experience the pedestrian hub.
“This is a pilot project, and we’re just trying and seeing how things go,” she said. “It’s going to be a great summer to assess how this project works, and we will be meeting every two weeks with all the adjacent businesses to get their feedback to know how things are going for them and if we need to do some readjustments.”
She also says that although the town square is not 100 per cent complete, it is still off to a great start.
“We are still missing a few benches and planters, so a few things we are going to set up this week that were not ready yet,” she said. “Overall, we had a first taste of what the Main Street town square is going to look like this summer.”