If at first you don’t succeed try and try again, they say. Let’s hope that old adage holds true for Downtown Summerside Inc.
The local business group charged with supporting and promoting the city’s core had created a social square called Downtown Keel Row for the summer. Shutting down Water Street from Spring to Summer streets, it was hoped that by creating a pedestrian mall featuring entertainment and activities to complement the wares of downtown shops the group could create a buzz and boost traffic and tourism (and ultimately sales) for downtown merchants.
It didn’t work out.
By late July some merchants, despite have supported the idea in writing at the beginning, were calling for the square to close and vehicular traffic to be allowed through once again, after seeing sales figures lagging.
Keel Row was supposed to attract people and business to the downtown core, but some, like Tim MacKay of Downtown Convenience, say it’s done the opposite.
MacKay said the first couple of weeks the street was closed there was a lot going on, and plenty of people around so businesses was OK. But as the entertainment and attractions tapered off, so too did interest in the area.
That’s a fair comment and a good observation, one that ought to be used to make the event work better for everyone next time, but not used to kill the idea altogether – at least not yet.
Carol Peters, owner of Sheen’s for Shoes, is on the closed section of street and has witnessed a similar downturn in her normally brisk summer season; one for which she had high hopes. She said she was originally excited that someone, anyone, was trying something new and exciting in the downtown.
But as her revenues continue to decline, she’s grown more worried about her prospects for this year.
This is not what anyone hoped or expected. But let’s take the lessons learned and try again, not give up.
What worked? What didn’t? Sure it wasn’t a complete success, but it wasn’t a complete failure either.
Perhaps the street closures should only be for a specific amount of time each day while events are taking place; maybe we move it to a side street. There are lots of new ideas to try before throwing in the towel.
Downtown Summerside Inc. did the right thing by giving this idea a go; and it is doing the right thing by shortening the events by two weeks – even if some would like it to happen sooner.
Let’s hope we have better luck next year and merchants are cheering for its return rather than its demise.