Mill Street makeover brings more traffic downtown

The sidewalks on Mill Street are twice as wide as they used to be, and way more pedestrian friendly.

Customers enjoy an afternoon treat outside Harvest on Mill Street's newly widened sidewalks.

The sidewalks on Mill Street are twice as wide as they used to be, and way more pedestrian friendly.

There are pretty flowering trees, stamped concrete sidewalks and distinctive lamp standards on the new one-way street in downtown Chilliwack.

They’re celebrating the improvements that City of Chilliwack made recently with a ribbon cutting Saturday morning at 10:30 on Mill Street to mark the milestone of completion.

So how do the merchants and customers like it so far?

“It’s beautiful,” says Claudia Earl of Find A Treasure and “There’s a new tree planted right outside my store.

“We’re fairly new to Chilliwack, and didn’t get to experience it very long the way it used to be, but the increased sidewalk space now allows us to put product outside.”

Already she’s getting good feedback. There were literally hundreds of neighbours who came down on Customer Appreciation Day to check it out. It’s like there’s a new vibe on the street.

“Everybody is saying how much better it all looks.”

Customers have been spotted window shopping and lingering around the shops, cafés and bakeries.

Three of the Mill Street businesses serve food. They have put a couple of tables outside each storefront to allow customers to enjoy their treats al fresco.

“Also we get a lot of people on mobility scooters. They have no problem navigating the street,” Earl noted. “Everyone is sharing the sidewalk. It’s so nice.”

More people seem to be strolling around, agreed Kevin Klassen, owner of Harvest Store and Café.

“It looks so refreshed. It’s given the street a new life, and it’s downright sexy around here. It gives you an idea of what the rest of the downtown could be as well.

“No one is cranky when they come in here. The customers love the improvements.”

It’s good to see people wandering around, says Birdies Cottage Bakery and Catering owner Johanna MacDonald.

“The feedback has been positive. People are saying it was time for a change.”

They now have a couple of new bistro tables out front where they can comfortably seat four people.

Krista Butt, owner of Cornerstore Custom Picture Framing and Gallery, calls the street changes “fantastic.”

She particularly likes the historic looking lamp posts and the attractive detailing on the stamped sidewalks.

“We’re getting a whole bunch more foot traffic, which makes me very happy,” she said. “The perception of downtown is getting better because of it.”

The idea for a greener Mill Street with patios first emerged in 2007, during Downtown Revitalization Plan consultations. The idea was one of the ways suggested to make the downtown core more attractive, livable and responsive to growth.

City Council put aside the half a million dollar cost for paving work and underground servicing in the 2013 budget. The work was finished by the end of April.