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Whitehorse now has a Front Street

After a bumpy ride, First Avenue has a new name. City council approved changing its name to Front Street on Monday night. But the decision didn't come without debate.

After a bumpy ride, First Avenue has a new name.

City council approved changing its name to Front Street on Monday night. But the decision didn’t come without debate.

The street should remain as First Avenue, Coun. Dave Stockdale said before the vote.

“There should always be a fourth option: do nothing,” he told his fellow councillors.

City administration wanted to change the street’s name to better reflect the city’s history before the Alaska Highway was built. First Avenue has always legally been called First Avenue. But many people referred to it as Front Street because people used this street to access both the river and the railroad. A retail strategy completed in 2006 said changing the name could make it easier for businesses to promote themselves.

City administration recommended the name be changed now to mark the revitalization of the waterfront area. A celebration of this work has been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 5.

At a public meeting last week, a couple citizens suggested the street be changed to Waterfront Way or Waterfront Avenue. And in a past meeting, Stockdale had suggested it be changed to Paddlewheel Way. That suggestion was partly facetious, he told council on Monday, although it was still a good idea, he said.

But names other than Front Street were never options, Pat Ross, manager of planning and building said Monday night. The bylaw was always clearly about changing the name of First Avenue to Front Street, not suggesting new names altogether.

Putting “Waterfront” in the name could cause confusion with Waterfront Place. The city’s policy about how streets should be named says that similar-sounding names should be avoided. And this could cause confusion when emergency services are responding to 911 calls, the city’s administration report says.

But this process wasn’t clear enough, said Coun. Kirk Cameron. He had expressed his disapproval of the name Front Street in previous meetings.

Asking people what they thought about changing the street’s name, when city administration was only ever considering Front Street as an option, was “wasting people’s time,” he told his fellow councillors.

He suggested council delay the vote by at least a month.

“This hasn’t gelled enough,” he said of the potential new name.

But no other councillors supported the deferral.

Mayor Dan Curtis, who attended the meeting via teleconference while on vacation, criticized even considering a delay.

It was “abundantly clear” to him and others that the only option being considered for the new name was Front Street, he said. Residents and businesses had time to respond, and there was no great opposition to the idea, he said.

“If you don’t like it, then defeat it. But don’t postpone it. We’ve been put in this position to make decisions,” said Curtis, adding that he’s getting frustrated by this council’s continued practice of delaying decisions.

The new street name passed by a vote of 3-2. Cameron and Stockdale both voted against it. Councillors Jocelyn Curteanu and Mike Gladish were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Installing new street signs will cost the city about $1,500. Canada Post will forward mail for free for affected businesses and residences for a year after the change.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at