© Roger LeBlanc/Journal Pioneer
Water Street in downtown Summerside
SUMMERSIDE — Summerside is staging its own version of the “endless summer.”
There is a host of events taking place beginning this weekend with the College of Piping’s Summerside Highland Gathering, the Summerside Lobster Festival, Chautauqua, Atlanticade, The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom and the list goes on.
The aim is not only to celebrate the community but also to bring tourists and residents to the downtown core.
Downtown Summerside Inc., a non-profit organization of local business owners, landlords, tenants and stakeholders, intends to keep this initiative going throughout the summer.
City council has granted the group permission to close down Water Street from Spring to Summer streets to traffic and create the Downtown Square from July 19 to Sept. 1.
Brent Gallant, president of Downtown Summerside Inc. said it’s time to change gears and find new ways to bring people downtown.
“This is one of the busiest years that I can remember in Summerside,” Gallant said.
“The work that we’re doing with the open concept for opening up Water Street is going to be new. I hope it’s going to be well received. If it is it’s going to put a new facet on what we’re going to do to draw people to downtown Summerside. We’ll be having a new, vibrant space where people can gather. Activities will continue on there right through to Sept. 1.”
The idea for the downtown square came from Downtown Summerside Inc. executive director Pam Schurman-Montgomery.
“She had come back from a conference in New York and one of the presenters was looking at how that was developed at Times Square,” he said. “That’s one of the busiest places in the world and they closed off that space. Now, that space becomes more pedestrian friendly and people gather there as opposed to driving through. It’s been a very, very successful situation.”
Gallant said they have also been looking at other communities such as Dartmouth, N.S., and Halifax that are using the same concept with great success as well.
“We’re really excited about what this could possibly mean for our area,” he said. “This is such a drastic change.”
Before making any plans, Gallant said they had to speak with the downtown merchants to get their take on the plan.
“We went out and met with and discussed with and the support of the merchants of downtown,” he said. “They’re looking for opportunities to have more people there so they can have more customers and more opportunities to have more customers around. “This is what we hope to achieve. We’ll be reviewing ways of improving it next year, if successful. If not, we’ll move on to something else.”
The concept is a new idea for the downtown.
“We have to move into the realm of more drastic or big changes to make a difference,” Gallant said. “It fits in very well with all of the other activities that are going on in the summertime.”
Gallant said the details of what will be happening in the Downtown Square will be developed as the opening date approaches.
“There are several that we’ve been developing and we continue to work on them to keep the activity level high,” he said. “We hope to have things going on there all through the summer.”