Pedestrian-only downtown a success with residents as St. John’s adapts to pandemic

The Pedestrian Mall on Water Street in St. John’s is shown on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. A section of the historical downtown street is now closed to vehicular traffic from noon to 10 pm daily until September 2020. The Pedestrian Mall was approved to allow Water Street venues to expand into the street and provide social distancing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

The Pedestrian Mall on Water Road in St. John’s is proven on Wednesday, July eight, 2020. A piece of the historic downtown road is now closed to vehicular site visitors from midday to 10 pm every day till September 2020. The Pedestrian Mall was accredited to permit Water Road venues to develop into the road and supply social distancing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Cool temperatures did not cease tons of of canine walkers, bikers and diners from flocking to St. John’s, N.L.’s major downtown road Wednesday night.

Mates waved to one another throughout Water Road and approached newly constructed patio decks to talk, as residents of Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital basked within the product of a long-discussed imaginative and prescient that is been fast-tracked by metropolis officers throughout the pandemic: a pedestrian-only downtown.

“Town actually bought this proper this time. We’re very comfortable,” Dick Barter, co-owner of Inexperienced Door restaurant, stated whereas engaged on his institution’s patio.


Barter, like different enterprise homeowners on the colorful downtown strip, stated he is advocated for closing the road to vehicles for years.

Lower than every week after the July three launch, Barter stated he is observed a rise in enterprise and his prospects appear comfortable to be exterior sharing a drink and a meal after staying dwelling for months below restrictions meant to beat again the unfold of COVID-19.

With one energetic case of the sickness reported within the province, many restrictions on every day life have been lifted, and in June the capital metropolis green-lit the pedestrian mall on Water Road to assist struggling companies reopening with new limits on capability.


The experiment will run from July three till Sept. 7, closing 4 blocks of Water Road from midday to 10 p.m. every day, with picnic tables and different seating put in alongside the route.

Barter famous that companies had only a few weeks to finish paperwork for his or her outside expansions, however he stated the consequence has been price it.

Water Road is one instance of how cities are making fast adjustments to assist companies and cooped-up metropolis dwellers in a physically-distanced world the place outside public area is at a premium.


Cities around the globe have launched related experiments for the reason that pandemic started, closing some streets to vehicles and unexpectedly increasing biking routes, as Toronto mayor John Tory pledged to do in Might.

In St. John’s, many hope the transformation on Water Road will develop into an annual fixture — together with Liberal Finance Minister Tom Osborne, who has predicted powerful occasions forward for the province’s already troubled financial system.

Osborne had a entrance row seat to the brand new Water Road throughout his outside meal at The Service provider Tavern Wednesday. “It is good to see the financial system begin to take form once more,” he stated.


Osborne stated he is proud of the result that he stated resembles the bustling outside eating areas he is admired in different Atlantic Canadian cities that rely closely on vacationer in the summertime.

“I hope it lives past this 12 months as a result of it does deliver extra folks downtown and it is not solely good for the hospitality business however a number of the outlets down right here could profit as properly,” he stated.

Osborne wasn’t the one acquainted face on the road Wednesday. Musician Alan Doyle of Nice Massive Sea fame was impressed by the turnout as he wandered to discover a seat. “It is improbable, I am glad to be down right here,” Doyle stated. “I can not consider that is the primary 12 months it occurred in my lifetime.”


A handful of individuals have been sporting face masks however most had their faces uncovered, together with waiters at various the busy eating places. Folks acknowledged buddies and talked standing shut collectively, however for probably the most half folks appeared to stay to their social teams.

Kelly Whittle spent the night on Water Road with two girlfriends. The group stated it was thrilling to see the downtown become a vacation-like vacation spot with sufficient room to securely unfold out.

Though it has been lauded as successful by residents and politicians, the modifications to Water Road are nonetheless being tweaked after some identified the adjustments did not contemplate the wants of residents with diminished mobility.


In Fb publish shared extensively this week, Lisa Walters posted 48 photographs of herself exterior downtown areas she was unable to enter in her wheelchair. She wrote that the brand new patios and tables on the road made it more difficult for her to navigate the area.

“The obviously apparent factor to me was how unhappy it was that so many companies might construct these elaborate patios in a single day, and nonetheless not have small wheelchair ramps into their shops or eating places,” Walters wrote.

Mayor Danny Breen was one of many many individuals who commented on Walters’ publish, saying metropolis employees would overview the problems she raised. Walters stated in a Fb message subsequent dialog with the mayor left her “hopeful that some adjustments will truly be made.”


A Friday information launch from town acknowledged room for accessibility enhancements, and mentioned a plan to develop a program to put in ramps. “You will need to acknowledge that that is just the start,” Breen’s assertion stated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed July 11, 2020.