A Serious Look at Closing Red River Road to Vehicles

Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary
Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary
A look down the walkway at Victoriaville, quiet isn't even close to describing it.
A look down the walkway at Victoriaville, quiet isn’t even close to describing it.

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – The idea of closing Red River Road to vehicle traffic has come forward, and it is likely that Thunder Bay City Council will be asking City Administration to prepare a feasibility report on this issue.

Perhaps it is time to step back for a moment.

Along Red River Road in the area proposed for closure there are several restaurants and bars. The Foundry, The Sovereign, Black Pirate’s Pub, along with the Scotia Bank, and the CIBC at the corner of Red River Road and Cumberland.

Closing the street to vehicles would likely hammer the bank, business wise.

Downtown South Core
Downtown South Core could be described as an unpolished diamond. However merchants are working hard to fix that.
Red River Road Circa 1959
Red River Road Circa 1959

The former Eaton’s department store has been home to a call centre that is now set to close.

Perhaps rather than look to close down the street, maybe it is time to open it up.

All it takes is a look down Victoria Avenue East after 5PM to make you wonder about the wisdom of trying to close down the street to vehicles.

A walk during the day in Victoriaville Mall might be the prescription for any civic leader or politician on the wisdom of closing down a street to vehicles.

What might be an idea for Thunder Bay to consider is that size of our city at about 110,000 is are we big enough for some of the ‘Big City’ ideas that work so well in other cities.

Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary
Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary

Sparks Street Mall in Ottawa, and Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary are excellent examples of how closing a street to vehicle traffic can be a success.

Of course in Calgary, at lunchtime there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who come out of the office towers downtown looking to walk, dine, or socialize. More than double the population of our entire city support that pedestrian mall. It is also a key part of making downtown Calgary walkable.

A better idea that a permanent road closure would be for the city to work with the local BIA and do some testing of this idea. Close the street for specific events in the summer, and see what the results are.

Do surveys of customers and businesses to see how they like it.

Look at the impact of this idea on Thunder Bay Transit. Red River Road brings in the buses to the Water Street bus terminal. They could be re-routed, but what impact might that have on the businesses on Red River Road.

Based on the number of empty stores, despite some of the hype, the area has not filled right up even during the discussions of an event centre.

Thunder Bay once had two booming downtown core areas. Tinkering with them over the years has led us to what we now have. Is that a hallmark of a growing city?

James Murray

The downtown Fort William Business District is beautiful area needing entrepreneurship
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